Denis Doyle’s Remarks to Council December 10, 2018
Season’s greetings to everyone and thank you for coming out to this evening’s Inaugural meeting to witness the swearing in of our new Council. First of all I would like to thank the outgoing Council and their families for all that they have done over the past 4 years and wish the incoming Council all the best during the next four years. With the ever changing rules and new policies introduced by the Province it is not easy to run a Township and I want to thank and acknowledge all the hard work that staff do day in and day out to keep the Township operating and to cope with changes pushed down to us by the Provincial and Federal Governments.
The Province, through the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, our neighbour to the east Steve Clarke, announced that one of his top priorities is to reduce the 380,000 regulations that residents of Ontario have to deal with. Steve’s suggestion is to reduce them by 25%, but even if that is accomplished there will still be 285,000 regulations. While we do a good job of keeping on top of all the rules and bureaucracy, we often have to get expensive outside help by hiring consultants, or Lawyers to advise us. Planning is very complicated these days and is the biggest ongoing area that we need help with. Since I have been on Council we have used two different outside consultant to assist us in Planning, but going back 6 or 7 years ago we contracted with our Frontenac County Planners to help us with this work. This approach has worked much better as our County Planners know the area and give us much better service than previous Consultants who were located hundreds of Kilometers away in a different part of Ontario. I want to acknowledge and thank them for all the hard work they do to support our residents.
Last but not least I want to thank the many Volunteers that allow us to run our Fire service and many of the programs delivered through committees that we enjoy in Frontenac Islands. If we had to pay full price for all the services that we have, taxes would be significantly higher!
We do not look after all municipal services locally in our Township, the County handles some, the City of Kingston others and other services are managed on a Regional bases. This was a system set up as part of the major re-structuring done in the 1998 Amalgamation project where the then approximate 2,000 municipalities in Ontario were reduced to just over 400. Frontenac County handles the Paramedic Service for Kingston and our County, while the City of Kingston handles things like Social Services and Housing for their area as well as for Frontenac County. Other Municipal government service are handled on a Regional Bases, through Boards with representatives from the partnering Municipalities. The two big ones are the Library Board and the K F L&A Public Health Board. These boards have Council representatives from the City of Kingston, and one from each of the participating Counties. The Public Health Board has 3 Kingston Councillors appointed and one each from Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Counties. On the Public Health Board there are also 4 members of the public appointed, but since this is a Municipal function the majority of the board members are always from the municipal sector. Funding is provided from the property tax base of the participating municipalities as well as through grants from the province. For the Public Health nearly a Million Dollars is collected from the 4 Frontenac Townships through the annual levy and forwarded to them. Similarly significant money is collected through local property taxes and given to the Library Board to operate that organization. Natalie was the County Representative on the Library Board while I am the representative on the Public Health Board.
One of the Islands Council’s top priorities has always been to keep local property taxes at a minimum while providing good municipal services. Pat Norris who was on Council for over 30 years always ensured that Howe Island had the lowest property taxes in the region. A recent comparison using Kingston as the baseline to measure against shows that equally evaluated houses in Frontenac Islands pay about 45% of the taxes as Kingston residents pay. When you break this down to the two Wards, Howe actually is at 41% and Wolfe Ward at 47%. Other townships tax payers pay significantly higher than we do, for example Central Frontenac pay 69%, while Loyalist Township which includes Amherst Island pay 79% of the Kingston property Tax rate. Our low rate is partially because Frontenac levy amount is the lowest in the region, at $178 per $100K of assessment, while the County of Leeds and Grenville is $371 and Lennox and Addington is $504. While we will attempt to keep this envious position there are often things outside our control that force us to raise taxes. You may recall that 3 years ago we had to take major tax increases as a result of the Province increasing our OPP charges from under $100K to nearly $400K per year. While we lobbied hard, in partnership with others, and did reduce the OPP fees due to questionable charges for structures like cell and wind towers, our township annual bill is still over $350K a year. With the Province facing a major deficit with their budget we should expect more of this kind of downloading. I will assure you however that your Council will always advocate for our residents and ensure that we speak up against unfair provincial downloading. We will also do a detail analysis of any new programs and make decisions based on facts, considering best municipal practices and ensure that whatever we implement is affordable by the tax payers in our Township and at the County level.
We still have a fairly long agenda to go through this evening so I won’t go on to long but would like to say that we are in very good shape financially, with good reserves, great staff, and good programs to manage roads, ferries, waste management and various other Township functions. While we all have our personal priorities for the next 4 years I will hold mine for a meeting at a date we will agree upon at the end of this meeting to discuss as a Council, and decide where we will spend our resources, and give Staff direction on areas that we need more information on for our budget meetings. These typically take place during January and February.
In closing I want to wish everyone all the best during the up-coming Holiday season and thank each of the Councillors for putting their names forward to run for Public Office. There is much to learn and many Provincial policy changes that take place for Councils during the next few months, thus I encourage all Councillors to attend the upcoming training put on by AMO in Kingston during the winter months.