SDG – The Ontario government recently released this year’s Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund funding and in SDG Counties there are some clear winners and losers this year. The fund is the main grant of yearly funding for 389 of the 444 municipalities in the province.
Coming out on top regionally are municipalities like North Glengarry, South Dundas, and the City of Cornwall. Other municipalities within SDG Counties received modest gains through OMPF except for the Township of North Stormont, which saw a significant reduction in OMPF funding continue for another year.
The announced 2021 allocations see Cornwall receiving $4.521 million (8 per cent increase); North Glengarry $2.167 million (2.74per cent increase); South Dundas $1.192 million (2 per cent increase); South Glengarry $990,300 (0.87 per cent increase); North Dundas $934,000 (3.16 per cent increase); South Stormont $902,600 (1.68 per cent increase); and North Stormont $479,900 (1.98 per cent decrease).
The United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry saw its OMPF amount drop by 15.77 per cent to $822,300. Because SDG contracts with the City of Cornwall for shared services such as land ambulance and welfare, its OMPF funding has been dropping each year while the City has been increasing each year.
Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MPP Jim McDonell explained that the funding changes are formula driven. “When tax assessment revenue goes up, that has an impact.”
Tax assessments in all municipalities in Cornwall and SDG Counties have increased, which factors into the OMPF funding.
McDonell said that part of the calculations by the ministry for each municipality is based on infrastructure needs.
“There are a lot more infrastructure like bridges and roads in the two Glengarries than the rest of the county,” McDonell said adding that what the funding formula generates is based on what municipalities send in as inputs.”
Other municipal needs add to that funding as well he said.
“Alexandria and Cornwall have more social housing and other lower income needs,” said McDonell.
As in past years, the per-person funding in Cornwall and North Glengarry has increased considerably, while one municipality, North Stormont, has seen a substantial decrease in OMPF funding.
“A majority of our land is agriculture and appreciation of farm land impacts the formula,” said North Stormont mayor Jim Wert.
Over 72 per cent of all land in that township is classified as farm land under the OMPF Farm Area Measure index. That index is used as one of the main baseline calculations for the OMPF. Other inputs include assessment levels and number of residences. As the average property assessment in North Stormont ($302,678) has increased over the provincial assessment average of $300,000, it does not qualify for any equalization grants. Because South Dundas’ assessment is below the provincial average ($296,577), it still qualifies for equalization.
The OMPF program was created to support municipalities after the Farm Tax Rebate program was scrapped in the 1990s. Municipalities receive only 25 per cent of the residential tax rate from agricultural land. If a municipality has a lot of industrial or commercial properties, it can balance out shortfalls from farm land. In the case of North Stormont, it has the GFI Lafleche land fill in Moose Creek.
“If it wasn’t for Lafleche, we would have double-digit property tax increases each year,” said Wert, who is worried about the long term drop in financial support from OMPF.
Over the past five years, North Stormont has seen a 39.79 per cent decrease in OMPF funding. Comparatively, South Dundas has seen a 22.54 per cent increase over that same timeframe.
Wert said he continues to try to get an explanation from the province on how the formula is calculated, including delegations to Toronto
While the Farm Area Measure is used in North Stormont and North Dundas’ calculations, for the other four municipalities in SDG, it is marked not applicable.
The number of dwellings in a municipality are also a significant factor. North Stormont has 40 per cent fewer dwellings than the other five municipalities in SDG.
Even with the average assessment well over the provincial average, North Dundas saw an increase in its OMPF funding simply because it has 1,900 more households than North Stormont.
OMPF calculations are completed by the Ministry of Finance in Toronto, with no local input from municipalities. There is no application process involved or any method of appealing assessments.
McDonell defended the OMPF funding provided this year saying the previous government had been cutting the funding.
“We’ve increased it,” he said.