On the August 25th Committee of the Whole Agenda, there is a notice of motion that has been creating a lot of discussion in the community. A notice of motion is the way an individual member of Council can bring forward an idea for consideration. For this idea to move forward or be acted upon, a majority of Council must vote in support of the idea.
Almonte Councillor Maydan has brought forward a motion about the Cost Sharing Agreement that we maintain with Carleton Place and Beckwith. It is sometimes called the “Howard Allan Agreement” because our auditor, Howard Allan FCPA FCA, created the agreement by request of the municipalities involved. The notice of motion and background information provided by Councillor Maydan is Item G.1 and can be found on pages 94 – 101 of the August 25th Committee of the Whole Agenda: https://pub-mississippimills.escribemeetings.com/Meeting.aspx?Id=8fba1879-01e1-4d7a-80c2-53874dc6eb93&Agenda=Agenda&lang=English
I am concerned that the motion calls for immediate termination of the Agreement and that the accompanying information is incomplete as it is currently presented by Councillor Maydan. I am also concerned about the accuracy of the picture it paints for residents about the value and purpose of the Agreement.
What Are the Actual Costs?
Much of the discussion in the community that this motion has ignited is about costs and spending money wisely. The statement that Mississippi Mills has contributed over $1M to Culture and Recreation Costs in Carleton Place over the last 8 years is both inaccurate and out of context. As confirmed by our treasurer:
- The actual total paid to Carleton Place for Recreation and Library services over the last 8 years (2012-2019) is $925,074, not over $1M.
- The actual increase since 2012 is $18,398, not $50,000.
- The average increase per year since 2012 is $2300 total, which is approximately a 0.02% tax increase.
To put these numbers into context, over the last 8 years:
- The actual total for all our recreation and library services is $22,533,195.
- The Cost Sharing Agreement represents 4.1% of this total.
The 1500 residents in South Ramsay represents approximately 11% of our total population, but recreation and library services costs for this area of Mississippi Mills are only 4.1%. This is incredible value to the taxpayer!
Is the Cost Sharing Agreement Reciprocal?
Some mistakenly believe the Agreement is a reciprocal one. This is incorrect. From Mississippi Mills’ perspective, the Agreement’s purpose is to provide service to the over 1500 South Ramsay residents whose town centre is, and always has been, Carleton Place. There are many subdivisions and developments in South Ramsay, some abutting Carleton Place’s boundary seamlessly. These developments include Julie Anne Crescent Subdivision, Spruce Crescent Subdivision, Montgomery Park, Birch Point Lane, Oakland Crescent Subdivision, Mississippi Golf Estates, Glen Isle and Appleton.
Where Did This Cost Sharing Agreement Come From?
The Howard Allan Agreement was put in place in 1987. Its purpose was for Ramsay and Beckwith to pay into the recreation and library services that their residents accessed in neighbouring communities since Ramsay and Beckwith did not have facilities. Ramsay Township paid for services in both Almonte and Carleton Place. For some Ramsay residents, Almonte is their town centre but for many others, Carleton Place is where they pick up mail, go to church, go to school and shop. In fact, there is a history of Ramsay residents being recognized as the “Carleton Place Citizen of the Year”!
A Promise From Amalgamation
At the time of amalgamation, one of the guiding principles was that the Cost Sharing Agreement would remain in place to service the residents who identify Carleton Place as their community. It means that Mississippi Mills did not have to build additional facilities or enlarge existing Almonte facilities to accommodate South Ramsay residents’ needs – the costs of which would be significant.
How is the Agreement Calculated?
The cost sharing formula is calculated using weighted assessments. Annually, Mr. Howard Allan provides a calculation using this formula and updated assessment figures to reflect growth in each partner municipality. Carleton Place properties are weighted at 100%. Ramsay properties are weighted between 50-60% of assessment depending on how close they are to Carleton Place for Recreation and Library Services (not including the pool). An important point: only properties south of Almonte are included. Ramsay residents with properties in Clayton or Blakeney for example, or any rural areas North of Almonte, are not included in the Recreation and Library Services Calculation.
Put simply, a portion of the taxes paid by South Ramsay residents is used towards the recreation and library services they use in their home community of Carleton Place. Something else that is misunderstood is the bonus this Agreement provides: Any Mississippi Mills resident can use the recreation or library services in Carleton Place at no additional charge, should they wish to do so.
For the pool, we contribute at a rate of 25% of weighted assessment for all of Mississippi Mills. The reason for this is because we do not have a pool in Mississippi Mills. When the pool in Carleton Place was originally built, it was a joint effort between the School Board, Carleton Place, Beckwith, Ramsay and Almonte.
A Board to Board Agreement Between Libraries
It is also incorrect to state that a board-to-board agreement wasn’t established between the Carleton Place Public Library Board (CPPLB) and the Mississippi Mills Public Library Board (MMPLB).
At their November 30, 2016 meeting, the MMPLB reviewed and then voted to recognize and support the terms of the Cost Sharing Agreement as long as it remains in effect. The MMPLB also supported a new Board to Board Agreement which endorsed the library services portion of the Cost Sharing Agreement. Prior to its distribution to MMPLB members, Peggy Malcolm, consultant with Southern Ontario Library Services, had approved the draft Board to Board Agreement and provided confirmation that it complied with the Public Libraries Act. This can be verified from the MMPLB Board Minutes. Both Library CEOs and Library Board Chairs signed the agreement in December 2016 (for 2017) and again signed again in February 2018 (for 2018). The signed agreement from December 2016 is attached.
The Dangers of An Immediate Call to Terminate the Agreement
Councillor Maydan’s notice of motion currently calls for an immediate termination of the partnership. There is no discussion with our municipal allies; there is no consultation with South Ramsay residents who would lose services; there is no opportunity to understand the purpose, intent and value of the Agreement from Mr. Howard Allan who is scheduled to present to Council on this subject at a Special Meeting in September.
Terminating the agreement in this fashion would be the same as permanently shuttering the Pakenham library or closing the Arena in Almonte without consultation with residents. Immediately terminating the agreement is not transparent or fair to residents.
As municipal allies and partners, Mississippi Mills, Carleton Place and Beckwith support each other in a neighbourly way. One way we do so is through this agreement for recreation and library services. Another way is through the automatic aid agreement with the Ocean Wave Fire Company (Carleton Place’s fire department) who provide fire protection to Mississippi Mills residents who live close to Carleton Place. The Cost Sharing Agreement is a 3-way partnership. Beyond being unneighbourly, Council may find there are legal ramifications to permanent decisions made without consulting the other two municipal parties.
A Better Path Forward
The Cost Sharing Agreement is a long standing one where each partner comes to the table in good faith. If Council believes the agreement requires updating or changes, would like to explore new methodology for calculations, would like to see more regions included or a re-negotiation to consider reciprocity, out of respect for our municipal partners and according to the Agreement itself, the first steps should include a conversation at the Joint Cost-Sharing Committee.
First steps need to also include consultation with residents, particularly the over 1500 residents in South Ramsay who would be most impacted by any changes. However, the very first step needs to be education and learning: How can Council make decisions about an agreement they have not been fully briefed on by staff or by Mr. Howard Allan himself? I encourage that Council set aside discussion about the Cost Sharing Agreement until fully informed.
Understanding the Wider Context
I applaud Councillor Maydan’s desire to manage expenditures. We all want to ensure that the taxpayers’ money is spent wisely, effectively and fairly. Let us first understand the full impact of decisions we wish to consider.
In response to a letter from the Mississippi Mills Public Library Board in February 2020, Council invited Mr. Howard Allan to make a presentation on the Cost Sharing Agreement. Due to challenges because of COVID it took some time to be able to schedule Mr. Allan’s presentation. Councillor Maydan’s motion has spurred a lot of discussion on this topic which is a good thing. I strongly encourage the public to watch the live stream and learn the facts about the Agreement with us.
Please join us virtually for this Special Council meeting on September 22nd at 6 pm. If you have questions you’d like answered by Mr. Allan, please reach out to a member of Council before September 22nd.
Mayor Christa Lowry