By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario - Paying for vital municipal services is a challenge that continues to increase for SD&G residents, according to a new report from the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus (EOWC).
The United Counties of SD&G County Administration Building at 26 Pitt Street in Cornwall.
EOWC's Ratepayer Affordability White Paper paints a picture of a rural region that, compared to the Ontario average, has lower earnings and incomes, lower levels of education, a higher proportion of senior citizens, and a higher proportion of homes in need of major repair.
“Our analysis shows that rural household incomes are an average of $10,000 a year less than the Ontario average,” says 2014 EOWC Chair Jean Paul St. Pierre. “And nearly one in five of our residents is a senior citizen – many of whom are on fixed incomes. Our people simply can’t afford to pay the ever-increasing costs of municipal services, especially when rural areas have so much infrastructure to be maintained by a relatively small and widely-dispersed population. We are at a crossroad in terms of financial sustainability of local governments.”
“As local governments, we are doing all we can to contain costs and this report suggests what we can do to improve the financial circumstances of our residents. However we need the provincial government to partner with us to develop and implement new approaches to lighten the load for our ratepayers,” says Warden Eric Duncan.
The third in a series of special reports produced by the EOWC, the Ratepayer Affordability White Paper also contains more than a dozen recommendations for actions that could help to change the circumstances of the region’s ratepayers.
Some recommendations focus on longer-term strategies to improve the region’s economy and residents’ earning power. Other recommendations are drawn from earlier White Papers on Municipal Infrastructure and Municipal Affordability, which focus on finding cost savings and increasing non-tax revenues to municipalities.
The Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus brings together thirteen Eastern Ontario Counties and Single-Tier municipalities, to work with provincial and federal governments to address regional issues and improve the economic and social circumstances of more than 700,000 residents in this 45,000 square kilometre region. Each January, the EOWC establishes its priorities for the coming year and undertakes advocacy work and other projects through which the priority issues can be addressed.
For more information on all three White Papers as well as the EOWC’s 2014 priorities: www.eowc.org.