Comparing Owen Sound to Collingwood
Comparison of
Owen Sound and Collingwood Ė Part II

In Part I we saw that Owen Sound residents had to use a much larger percentage of their income to pay their property taxes than Collingwood residents. Itís important to note that if you rent an apartment you donít escape our high taxes. Itís unlikely that your landlord absorbs the cityís tax increases. These increases are normally just passed on to the tenants in the form of rent increases. So, you can be sure that all Owen Sound residents equally share the pain of the cityís annual tax increases.
 
Figure 5; Comparing the Value of Average Homes    source: BMA Municipal Studies

The graph above, figure 5,compares the average value of homes in Owen Sound with those in Collingwood. The first thing you notice is that the average home value in Collingwood is much greater than Owen Sound. Also note how the dwelling values change over time. Collingwood values increased by $78,818 or 31.3%, between 2014 and 2021. During the same period values in Owen Sound changed by only $17,786 or 9.0%.

This is just another impact of 20 years of annual high tax increases. When you combine the fact that we have the lowest household incomes in the area, with high property taxes and high rents taking a bigger chunk out of our pay cheques, we just canít afford expensive houses. 

Figure 6; Comparing Total Assessments    source: BMA Municipal Studies

As we saw in figure 5, the value of Owen Sound homes are significantly less than those in Collingwood. Now the above graph, figure 6, shows how Owen Soundís entire assessment compares to Collingwood's. As we expected  Collingwoodís total assessment is significantly higher than Owen Soundís. However the most noteworthy feature of this graph is how each assessment has changed between 2014 and 2021. Owen Soundís assessment has grown by only 8.95% while Collingwoodís assessment grew by a whopping 41.63%.

Why is this important? Well, the city doesnít tax people; it taxes properties in the municipality. So, the more property there is to share the tax burden, the lower the taxes on any individual property owner. Therefore itís important for a municipality to grow its assessment as opposed to its population, i.e. we need developers to build buildings so those new buildings can share our tax burden. This is why Council decided a few years ago to temporarily suspend Development Cost Charges to create an attractive development environment aimed at stimulating new construction. I will be examining the data to determine whether or not there was a good business case to support this development charge holiday and compiling my findings in a future post.

Comparing Expenses

So why are Owen Sound taxpayers carrying an increasingly heavier load each year. Those who read my previous studies know that the primary cause is Owen Soundís rapidly increasing taxes is its rapidly growing expenses. However, some may say; "Donít all municipalities have rapidly increasing expenses?" Well, we are about to find out.

Figure 7; Salary Comparison    source: Owen Sound Financials and Collingwood's Financials

The graph above, figure 7, shows the total Salaries and Benefits expense for both municipalities. You can easily review the total salaries and benefits for both municipalities by going to the financial notes at the end of the audited financials where you will also see the salary expense for each reported department.

Itís glaringly obvious that Owen Soundís expense is significantly higher than Collingwoodís. Whatís most interesting is that in 2020 Owen Sound and Collingwood had populations of 21,612 and 24,811 respectively as measured in the 2021 census. Yet, Owen Sound spent $3,922,227 more in salaries and benefits than the larger Town of Collingwood. So, what does this mean in terms of employees? Letís assume the average city employee salary and benefits totals $84,000, which is very generous, given that our average household income is only $75,861. In this case $3,922,227 will pay for a total of 47 full-time employees. Ask yourself; Is it reasonable that a municipality with 3,199 fewer residents would need 47 more employees to run the city?

We know from our previous work that Protective Services is one of the more costly departments in the city. So, letís take a look at Protective Services Salaries and Benefits.

Figure 8; Protective Services Salaries and Benefits    source: Owen Sound Financials

As expected, figure 8 shows that the cost of Protective Services has been growing steadily since 2011 and is now taking a larger bite out of the Salary-Wage envelope than any other department at $14,244,712.

In 2011 Protective Services represented 49.6% of all salaries and this grew steadily to 55% in 2020. If the growth continues at this rate, Protective Services will be responsible for 57.9% of all Salaries and Benefits expenses in 2025.

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In Part III we will zero in on whatís driving the Protective Services increases
and compare Owen Sound's to Collingwood's records on the
Sunshine List

 


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Collingwood-2
3 comments on 1 page
Whatís the Sunshine list?  
Bobby Roberts

How can it be that the only thing that Owen Sound beats Collingwood is hiring and paying city workers. This is disappointing.  
Robert Johnson

It seems like Collingwood residents are richer than us but we pay more taxes. How did our elected officials allow this to happen ?  
Beth Holmes


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