11/27/2013

To keep members informed, AMO provides updates on important issues considered at regular AMO Board of Directors’ meetings. Highlights of the November 2013 Board meeting include:
Ontario’s Fall Economic Statement and Municipal Governments

The Board received an overview of the government’s 2013 Fall Economic Statement. The Province says it is on-track to meet its 2017-18 target to balance the budget under its proposed deficit plan. That plan involves, among other matters implementing 60% of the Drummond Commission’s recommendations, further expenditure reviews for greater efficiencies, implementing the office of the Financial Accountability Officer.  There are several matters of particular note to municipal governments:

  1. The intent to review the provincial land tax which is the provincial tax for unincorporated areas in Ontario.  The tax is less than $325 for 90% of residential properties and has not been adjusted in decades. Northern municipal governments and AMO have long called for this to be rectified.
  2. Develop options to stem the erosion of province’s education funding through reviews of education property tax and business education tax rates.  Since 1998, the Province has fully offset reassessment increases by resetting the education tax rates, allowing municipalities to “occupy” the tax room created and help offset municipal tax increases.  These reviews will be important.
  3. Continues to project decreases to OMPF.
  4. Consideration of moving municipal tow truck licencing (occurs in about 50 municipalities) to a regulated authority.
  5. Creation of Trillium Trust so should there be any proceeds from sale of assets that it would be held in the trust for infrastructure and not be applied to provincial general revenues.  This is another potential source of help for the infrastructure deficit in Ontario.
  6. AMO will advocate on behalf of municipal policy interests in all of these reviews.  We will keep members informed as to their respective consultation processes.
Renewable Energy Procurement Process

The Board approved AMO’s proposed response to the Ministry of Energy on the OPA and IESO report on the Development of a New Large Renewable Procurement Process, which outlines 18 recommendations for improving siting of large energy infrastructure projects.  AMO’s Energy Task Force’s work was adopted by the Board.  At a high level, comments noted that municipal governments are interested in meaningful consultation with the appropriate parties; siting projects within communities that are willing to host them; having provincial decision makers participate and speak on behalf of the Province at public meetings about proposed large renewable energy projects; the need for appropriate research gathered before beginning the renewable energy process; and that regional energy plans guide questions of supply mix and general locations for renewable energy.
 
Update on progress for permanent Canada Gas Tax Fund

AMO will continue to be the administrator for all municipal governments, except Toronto.  The Province will again be the administrator for the unincorporated areas in the north.  All the parties are working on the drafting of a new agreement that not only reflects our mutual desire to have a broader range of eligible project areas, but also some further streamlining of the municipal administration and audit processes.  It is AMO’s hope that we can conclude the discussions shortly so that we can ratify the agreement.  Once it is ratified, AMO will be preparing new municipal agreements with confirmed allocations.  We are mindful of the need to have funds flow to municipalities in 2014 without a break.  
 
AMO has launched an EMS Interest Arbitration Advocacy Video

When municipalities and emergency service workers cannot agree on wage and benefit increases, interest arbitration is used to settle their collective agreements.  Emergency service workers can’t go on strike and, like all workers, they deserve to get fair increases over time.

However, wage and benefit increase for emergency workers are growing faster than increases for other public sector employees in Ontario and faster than Canada’s rate of inflation.  AMO is concerned about the fairness of this and its cost impact on other municipal programs and services.  The video is also on YouTube.  Municipal governments are encouraged to share this with those in your community who are concerned with cost drivers that impact taxation and services.

The Coming Staffing Crisis in Municipal Government

The Board received a presentation and supported the call to action on leadership and succession planning made by representatives of the Ontario Municipal Administrators Association (OMAA), the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO), the Ontario Municipal Human Resources Association (OMHRA) and the Municipal Finance Officers Association (MFOA).  Recruiting qualified staff to positions of leadership is becoming increasingly difficult and recruiting young talent to the municipal world is a major challenge.  Associations are coming together to build a strategy to address the issue of municipal succession planning.