The cost of running Thames Centre keeps increasing, yet some types of provincial funding are decreasing every year. Mayor Jim Maudsley expressed his concerns in a letter that has been sent to Premier Kathleen Wynne, with copies forwarded to the office of the Ministers of Finance and Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
Maudsley requested that the ministry do a review of the discontinuation of the Farm Tax Rebate Program and the continued erosion of the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) on rural communities in Ontario. The OMPF for this year has been reduced by $104,900, which represents a tax rate impact of 1.36 per cent.
The letter states that the combined impact of OPP contract increases and OMPF funding reductions continues to place stress on the municipal tax rate and makes it increasingly difficult to provide the level of service expected by residents.
Maudsley pointed out that the loss of the Farm Tax Rebate program is significant, but when the cost is combined with the impact of the dramatic reduction of the OMPF, the challenge for rural municipalities is multiplied.
As a result, the negative financial impact and the gap in funding for rural communities have grown significantly since 1998. Rural communities are now funding the cost of their own rebate program, increasing the tax burden for the agricultural community.
The download of costs is significant. The difference in financial resources available to Middlesex County in 2015 alone is $4.2 million or 12.7 per cent of the annual levy (the difference between the farm tax rates of $9.4 million minus the upload benefit of $4 million and the OMPF grant of $1.2 million). “When this formula is utilized to Middlesex County member municipalities, Thames Centre being among these member municipalities, the financial impact is devastating to these rural and small urban communities,” the letter stated.
Thames Centre is requesting that the government of Ontario complete a thorough review of the financial and socio-economic impact the changes to these two programs have had on rural Ontario communities and that effective corrective measures be implemented immediately.