Burpee-Mills joins call for province to take over small municipality policing costs

The Recorder

EVANSVILLE—Burpee-Mills Township council passed a motion in support of a group of municipalities numbering over 20, that met in Nairn Centre last week, calling for the province to take back the responsibility for policing small municipalities with a population of 5,000 or less. With an Ontario election having been called for June 12, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has indicated that some legislation for municipalities died on the order paper as a result of the dissolution of the provincial parliament, with one of these issues the attempt to deal with ‘unsustainable increases’ to policing costs.

“At our council meeting (Monday) we passed a motion that had been passed at the Nairn Centre meeting calling for the province to take over the responsibility of policing small municipalities with a population of 5,000 or less,” stated Burpee-Mills Councillor Wayne Bailey. He pointed out that the motion has been forwarded to all municipalities in the province with populations numbering less than 5,000, AMO and the Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Mr. Bailey said that despite some information that had come forward from the OPP that policing costs would go down with the proposed 60/40 model, Burpee-Mills would still be paying approximately $369 per household, based on OPP base service costs and calls for service combined. He attended the meeting last week with municipal representatives in Nairn Centre. Other municipalities in attendance included the North Shore, Huron, Spanish, Nairn Centre, Baldwin, Assiginack and Tehkummah. “The motion states that for all municipalities with populations of 5,000 or less to not accept the 60-40 proposed cost setup and to have the costs of policing all uploaded provincially. I really don’t think this is going to happen, but I understand a final decision is expected before August.”

“This new figure of $369 is not going to change much,” said Mr. Bailey, “even with the proposed 60-40 split model, base policing services/calls for service.”

A letter Burpee-Mills Reeve Ken Noland and Mr. Bailey forwarded on behalf of council to AMO and the Township of Baldwin states, “AMO’s OPP Billing Steering Committee’s final report of April 10, 2014 presents some suggestions to relieve the unfair impact of the proposed 2015 OPP billing model on small municipalities. Our council offers this analysis of the impact of each of the following AMO suggestions on the municipality of Burpee and Mills.”

“No. 1 – Possible impact of the recommended 60/40 percent (base policing costs/calls for service): Considering the MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) household model, we have 330 households (108 are seasonal dwellings). This model would charge approximately $221.40 per household for base services and $147.60 per household for “calls for service.” As a result, Burpee and Mills would be billed for $73,062 for base policing services and $48,708 for calls for service, for a total of $121,770 per year. This total is 354 percent of our 2013 policing costs of $38,267.”

“Since our rural community has very few calls for service, we will benefit somewhat by AMO’s recommendation to increase the calls for service from 27 percent of total policing costs to 40 percent of the total policing costs,” wrote Mr. Noland. “We contend, however, that equating the policing costs of a hunt camp worth $10,000 to a large, expensive residence in a heavily populated area is unfair. One hundred and eight of our 330 households are small cottages and hunt camps. We will be required to pay $68,265 policing costs on these buildings. That amount alone is 178 percent of our 2013 policing costs. The MPAC assessment on these small hunt camps will never contribute sufficient tax dollars to cover municipal policing costs of $369 per cottage.”

“No. 2 – Possible impact of the recommended “weight assessment” consideration for half of the base policing services. Since Burpee and Mills base policing services would be $73,062, the half calculated as household base policing services: would be $36,531. The other half of base policing services which would be calculated on weighted assessment would be decreased to less than $10,000 because Burpee and Mills has few commercial properties, farmland is taxed at 25 percent, and the vast sections of conservation properties are tax exempt.”

“The resulting cost for policing services to Burpee and Mills would be approximately $95,000,” wrote Mr. Noland. “This consideration of weighted assessment (ability to pay) would give our municipality some assistance, but our policing costs would still be 248 percent of the present 2013 policing bill. This is a shocking increase in costs to be reflected in our municipal tax levy for 2015.”

On the possible impact of a municipal partnership in OPP collective bargaining, it is pointed out in part the OPP collective bargain stipulates that the OPP must be the highest paid police force in Ontario. “Policing costs have reached an unsustainable level. Our community cannot afford this expensive policing service. These additional costs will result in an increase to our tax rate of 20 percent plus.”

However, “we are supportive of municipal representation in the OPP collective bargaining process, if municipal representation on the bargaining committee is decided on the basis of the percentage of the total provincial policing costs contributed by municipalities as compared to the province.”

“The new OPP billing model does not consider commercial buildings as households, thus commercial buildings are not considered for base police costs. Our rural community has few commercial enterprises and does not benefit from commercial tax assessment,” the letter continues. “This exclusion of commercial buildings from base policing costs is unfair.”

On the possible impact of applying a four-year transition period in application of the new billing model, “This recommendation will possibly lessen our municipal tax pain until 2018, but our inability to pay will not be solved in four years.”

And on the possible impact of suggested mitigation funding by a specific provincial grant to assist small municipalities, which may never be able to fund the high cost of police services, “historically, our provincial government has given temporary grants to municipalities as it downloads provincial responsibilities, but over time these grants are decreased and often disappear, leaving the municipalities to carry the burden unassisted.”

“Despite the election announcement, Burpee and Mills plans to continue expressing its concerns regarding unfair billing of small municipalities,” said Mr. Bailey. “Our municipality will continue to lobby the party leaders, and local candidates prior to the election to ensure that they are giving some consideration to the burdensome cost of policing to small rural municipalities.”