LAKE OF BAYS – The cost of receiving services from the District of Muskoka is unaffordable for the township of Lake of Bays according to Mayor Bob Young.
Lake of Bays Mayor Bob Young.
Over the next year staff with the township will be investigating whether it’s financially worthwhile to be a member of the local, tiered government system.
“The big problem we have is the district costs are allocated based on property assessment, not on population,” said Young. “The Lake of Bays has a disproportionately high property assessment, so on that basis we pay almost 12 per cent of the cost but we only have five per cent of the people, so it’s just very expensive for us.”
The mayor wanted to make it clear that he’s not completely anti-district.
“When it was formed over 40 years ago it made all the sense in the world. I mean Lake of Bays was a loose collection of four or five tiny, little municipalities that would not have been able to cope with the modern planning structures or modern building code structures. It’s just a whole different world today than it was then. They were ill-prepared for it.”
He said times have changed and the township is now developed and has professional planners and builders, so it’s time to reevaluate the situation.
For example, Young said Lake of Bays pays between $1.1 and $1.2 million dollars for policing, based on a District bill of about $10 million.
“There’s no way we get that amount of policing,” he said. “So what is the cost to provide policing services to Lake of Bays? That’s the type of study they’ll (staff) be undertaking.”
“There are townships our size that are single-tier,” said Young. “One nearby is Seguin in Parry Sound District, but it acts as a single-tier. I’m not quite sure how that happened, and that’s another thing I’d like to find out – how did they get to be one.”
But to separate from the District will take more than a simple curtsey and formal farewell.
“There’s no language in the municipal act that would allow it,” said Young. “So you’d have to have a special petition or go to the Ontario government with a special request.”
Young met with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Kathleen Wynne, earlier this year.
Wynne told Young if the Township were able to bring a reasonable approach the ministry would look at the request.
The study request came out of a Finance Committee meeting where Young told members, “I can’t afford District.”
The study will look at actual costs of District services, the inherent risks of separating, whether separating would be sustainable long-term and if it’s even financially viable to separate.
Young would hope a separation from the District would lower costs, allowing the Township to have better control and focus on services.
“So in other words tailor made services, rather than one-size fits all,” said Young.
The mayor said it’s important to collect the data before leaping to conclusions. Staff will have until June 2013 to complete the report.
However, Young said staff would likely analyze some of the larger servicing costs initially to determine if the study should continue to move forward or be scrapped.