At last night’s Council Meeting Mayor Rody offered good news to the community of Wawa and the other 110 other affected communities. The 2016 Ontario Budget has confirmed that Municipalities will receive the same payment as in 2015, subject to any necessary maintenance adjustments.
“Chapter V: A Fair and Sustainable Tax System
Section B: Strengthening Ontario’s Property Tax and Assessment System
Power Dam Special Payment Program
The Power Dam Special Payment Program provides eligible municipalities with mitigation related to the former property tax on hydroelectric generating stations (power dams). The Province has been consulting with municipal and electricity sector representatives on the program for a number of years. During these discussions, municipalities emphasized the importance of stability. In the 2015 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, the Province announced that stable funding would be provided to municipalities under the Power Dam Special Payment Program for 2016.
The Province is pleased to confirm that stable funding with respect to currently eligible hydroelectric generating stations will remain in place for 2017 and future years. This means that municipalities can plan on continuing to receive the same payment under the Power Dam Special Payment Program as they received in 2015, subject to any necessary maintenance adjustments.”
During his announcements Mayor Rody read a portion of an email from Mattawa Councillor Doug Patterson.
“Your work was a big part of making today’s announcement that the Ont Gov will leave the program alone possible, Its an inspiration that one person and one municipality can make a big difference.”
Mayor Rody continued, “Chris, we certainly thank you on behalf of our municipality and the other 110 for the work you did, a tremendous amount of work. Your leadership certainly came forward on that. I’d also like to acknowledge the work that former Mayor Linda Nowicki did on this file. This file is more than an inch thick – and I think I only added four or five letters to it. All the rest were done before I took over as Mayor. I even met a councillor from one of the communities that had a couple of dams, and he acknowledged (this was before the budget announcement) how much work that you [Chris] were doing and certainly appreciate it. So you know what, we’ve been talking a lot about this, we can rest easy; there is still more work to do; but Chris, I want to give you a round of applause.”
The gallery erupted in applause.
CAO Chris Wray added “What this does, is put us back to pre-2014 Budget. So there are two other issues we need to address. The first is that we need a CPI inflator on there at least. AMO understands that. If you read the AMO Budget document, they will tell you that they asked for that in the Budget and it wasn’t granted. The reason is probably because of the deficit the province is in. So we will continue to lobby for that. The second part of it is, the formula that is used, the OCIF formula based program of which we [Wawa] got was the minimum, $25,000; while all our neighbours around us, Chapleau, Manitouwadge, White River, etc; get more than that. That is because they use exempt assessment in the calculation. The more exempt assessment you have, the smaller your qualifier is. We [Wawa] has to get that formula changed. We actually had a meeting with the Minister (PA) while we were in Good Roads and talked to him about that. There will be some followup on that this Friday, at the Asset Management Plan Regulation Meeting in Toronto.” He continued “Those are two, I think unintended consequences that happened. The problem with the first one is that if we don’t put an escalator on the [Power Dam] Compensatory Program the proportionate share of our revenue as a result of that Power Dam Compensatory Program grows smaller and smaller each year; while the monies that we get from our ratepayers gets larger and larger. So that’s what we have to go after. I’m hoping we are going to have some success after the next little while. AMO, as I said has grabbed onto the issue and that will keep it front and centre.”
Mayor Rody, “We certainly appreciate your leadership in that area, and with your position on those boards, you brought forward issues particular to Wawa, as well as other communities.” He continued, “As we moved around the OGRA/ROMA Conference, it was clear that Chris’ influence is taken very seriously by members of the government, he’s on a first name basis with so many people. I talked to one CEO that had requested four meetings with the government and weren’t given one – we had four official meetings and one unofficial meeting. We appreciate the work that’s done out there and Wawa as a small community certainly I think provides a lot of leadership for the North and other small communities throughout the province. Again, Chris thank you very much for that.”
CAO Wray nodded, and added “Now you have James to help too [referring to Infrastructure Services Director James Neufeld who was just elected to the OGRA Board].” To James he challenged with a grin, “Now, you have to produce.”
Amidst laughter from council and staff, a smiling Mayor Rody concluded the announcements saying, “By James being elected to the OGRA Board, I think he dropped the average age of board members by two decades…”