03/19/2012

Let's Get This Right: The 2012 AMO Pre-Budget Submission.

Today the Association of Municipalities of Ontario provided its 2012 Pre-Budget Submission to Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne, and members of the Ontario Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.

Key highlights of the submission are below.

The submission notes that the fiscal challenges of today are shared federally, provincially, and municipally. Municipalities are committed to working with the provincial government to find ways to deliver services more efficiently as suggested by the Drummond Report. This includes provincial policy development that is evidence-based, that minimizes operational costs, and maximizes the outcomes for those we serve.

For the 2012 Provincial Budget the submission emphasizes:

Policy consultation


Municipal governments are open to having discussions on program change and delivery. Getting that change right means talking with municipalities before pen is put to paper on design.

No downloading


At the recent OGRA/ROMA conference Premier McGuinty recommitted to no new downloading, a commitment that was initially made at the AMO Annual Conference. Transferring responsibilities to another order of government without resources can, as Don Drummond notes, "often shift the burden to those assuming the service."

Other issues:

Equalization


The importance of municipal equalization through the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) should not be lost. The OMPF is what helps many small rural and northern municipalities fund base services to Ontarians in communities with limited assessment. The test of reasonableness, transparency, and equity are the hallmarks of good intergovernmental fiscal relations. They must govern any discussions related to the OMPF.

Policing Costs


Municipalities spend in excess of $3.5 billion annually to fund a wide array of activities that has grown well beyond the core police function of law enforcement. The submission asks - what alternatives exist regarding core and non-core policing functions? Can we build an arbitration system which includes an independent, neutral tribunal that uses objective criteria in determining awards?

Pensions


Municipal governments are challenged with growing pension costs that are becoming increasingly unsustainable for municipal property taxpayers. The province can demonstrate some valuable leadership on this front.

Infrastructure


AMO awaits the delivery of a new permanent fund for roads and bridges repair in the remainder of the government’s mandate. It is hoped that the final report of the roads and bridges review will help to guide this new permanent fund.

The submission concludes that the fiscal challenges of today will requires new thinking, new ideas, and a commitment to open and candid consultation with municipalities.

AMO encourages municipalities to echo similar themes in their pre-budget submissions and correspondence with the provincial government. The provincial budget will be delivered on Tuesday, March 27, 2012. An AMO Breaking News will be released on that day containing budget highlights for municipalities.