AMO Coverage in Milton Champion

Milton politicians stress need for more schools at AMO – Key concerns discussed at provincial conference

Julia Le – Milton Canadian Champion:  A need for more schools was among the key concerns Mayor Gord Krantz and eight councillors raised last week during the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference.

Krantz, councillors Sharon Barkley, Arnold Huffman, Mike Cluett, Rick Di Lorenzo, Cindy Lunau and Zeeshan Hamid, Tony Lambert and Local and Regional Councillor Colin Best were joined by Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr and Halton District School Board Trustee Donna Danielli as they met with Deputy Education Minister George Zegarac at the conference held in Ottawa to explain the challenging situation they are finding the Town in and the dire need from the Province to commit to building more schools to support the fast growing communities and the families and young children moving into them.

The meeting was originally schedule with Education Minister Laurel Broten, however likely due to the issues surrounding the current negotiations with teachers’ unions and school boards, Broten was unable to attend the conference, held each year to bring together municipal and provincial leaders and offer panels, discussions, and keynotes on a selection of municipal interest topics led by industry experts.

The group served as a united front in presenting Zegarac the reality Milton faces.

Danielli, the school trustee for the Milton 2, 3, 4 and 5 areas, said if it wasn’t for the repurposing of the old E.C. Drury High School, P.L. Robertson Public School was projected to have 40 portables by 2014. The old high school will now host a satellite location for P.L. Robertson as a temporary measure until a new school is built.

“It’s the best solution we have, but it certainly isn’t an ideal situation,” she said, adding that there’s no real place for full-day kindergarten and that families will have to be split up at different locations.

The group also lobbied for more funding to keep older schools up-to-date technologically and physically.

Danielli added the funding formula the province uses to dole out money to school boards needs to be revised.

“When you look at the 11 boards that are closest in area (to us), we’re at the bottom of the list in terms of per pupil funding,” she said.

The 56,000 students in Milton are receiving $1,000 to $1,500 when compared to surrounding school boards.

Krantz said he believes the group put its best case forward to the Ministry of Education and Zegarac, who seemed to be well versed in the town’s concerns.

“Was there anything ultimately resolved, well that’s hard to tell at this point, but I refer to it as keeping issues on the radar screen,” he said. “I think being in their face with your issues is just as important. (It shows) we’re not going away until we get some of this stuff sorted out.”

Danielli was more optimistic about the outcome of the meeting.

She said Zegarac seemed empathetic, even going as far as to say Milton was the “poster child of why we need capital funding.”

She doesn’t believe anything will be resolved until teacher negotiations have been settled, but hopes the Town will get the green light sooner rather than later to start construction before the end of the year.

Other issues Krantz and councillors discussed with the appropriate provincial ministers at the conference included making sure the hospital expansion was kept on the radar and the effect the Slots at the Racetracks program closure will have, not only on the horse racing industry but on the town.

The Province announced earlier this year that all payments made to the horse racing industry, including Mohawk Slots, through the Slots at the Racetracks program will end as of March 31, 2013.

Krantz and Lunau met with Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin to discuss the importance of keeping the horse industry alive. 

AMO Update – Post Ottawa

Over the next couple of days, I will get a more detailed accounting of what Milton councillors did on our 3 day conference in Ottawa.  I promise 🙂

For those that don’t know, myself along with a number of Milton Councillors attended the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference in Ottawa.  This gives local elected officials an opportunity to meet, discuss ideas that are important to their constituents, attend workshops and seminars as well as network with provincial government officials as well.

Last year a number of councillors went to the conference in London Ontario to meet with the infrastructure minister as well as the provincial health minister to stress the importance of the expansion of Milton District Hospital.  At that point we were armed with over 6,000 plus fresh signatures from the Grow Milton Hospital campaign as well as the previous Friends of Milton Hospital’s 35,000 plus signed cards from residents to let them know the number one issue in our town was the hospital.

You’ll remember that shortly after that (and a looming provincial election in the coming weeks MIGHT have had a LITTLE something to do with the announcement /end sarcasm) we received word that the expansion was going to move forward.

This year there were a number of issues that face Milton as we continue to grow in leaps and bounds.  Unofficially our population ticker is over the 100,000 mark and headed even higher.  There is a lack of schools being committed in Milton, which is one of the main reasons that our Halton District School Board Trustee Donna Danielli attended the conference for this meeting.

We were originallytrying to meet with the Education Minister Laurel Broten, but given the high pressure of the teachers negotiations, she was nowhere to be found in Ottawa (same as the finance minister oddly enough 🙂 ) but we ended up with Deputy Education Minister instead.

The deputy minister knew of Milton’s needs well before we got there as we are one of many municipalities that are facing these school shortages.  Donna was our “point person” during this meeting as she faces these issues on a daily basis, hearing from residents about when new schools will be ready, why there are 30 portables in each location and when will it stop.  Milton council members don’t have jurisdiction in this at all.  I got emails from folks telling me that we shouldn’t be bothering since we have no control.

Its true.  We dont have an official say in this and our presence there was mainly symbolic.  But it did make a point to every minister we met that Milton meant business.  If you follow the news at all, you know there is a lot going on right now with the education ministry and the “negotiations” with school boards and teachers, which was probably the reason she didnt make it to the AMO conference.  I am confident that we will be hearing some good news soon regarding some of our much needed schools in Milton, after everything else is being dealt with.  So stay tuned for that news.

That wasn’t the only meeting myself and the other councillors attended in the 3 days.  There were a number of meetings with government ministers to discuss items like slot revenues, the horse racing industry and MPAC issues we are having. 

As outlined by Kim Arnott in the Milton Canadian Champion recently, we could be possibly facing an issue of property tax increases here in Milton and other areas due to MPAC being delayed in their reassessment of homes.  Here’s the article.

Assessment issues could impact Milton property taxes

A “hair-raising” property tax increase could be in the works for Milton as a result of assessment issues that are beyond the Town’s control.  A combination of delayed assessment updates and resolved assessment appeals could result in a property tax impact of as much as $2 million, or a six to seven per cent increase on local property taxes.When combined with education and regional taxes, the result could be an increase of two to three per cent on the combined tax bill that’s mailed to local residents.  

“It’s making the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” said Councillor Mike Cluett. “This is very important.”A report delivered to council last night by Milton treasurer Linda Leeds outlined the challenges for the coming year.  The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), the provincial body responsible for assessing properties and assigning values for taxation purposes, will be conducting a province-wide reassessment next year.

Prior to the completion of that reassessment, an attempt is currently underway to resolve outstanding assessment appeals from prior years, with a focus on commercial and industrial properties.  However, that means that assessors are involved in hearings and not available to undertake assessments of new properties so they can be added to municipal tax rolls.

This is particularly problematic for rapidly-developing municipalities like Milton. The assessment and addition of new properties throughout the year — known as supplementary assessments — allows the Town to begin collecting taxes from those properties.  A delay in adding new properties to the municipal tax rolls means the Town needs to finance the expansion of services to accommodate new residents and business while it waits for the cash to come in.

In the 2012 budget, taxes from supplementary assessments were anticipated to be $2 million. However, so far this year MPAC has assessed only 116 of more than 800 new residential properties, for a total of only $77,413 in property taxes.

Staff is particularly concerned with the possibility that new commercial and industrial properties – which typically carry large tax bills – may not be assessed in a timely fashion.  The attempt to rapidly resolve outstanding assessment appeals could also impact on the town’s finances.

When property owners appeal their assessments, they are required to pay the full assessment until a decision is made on the appeal. If an appeal is successful, the Town issues a refund for taxes paid.   

As the 2012 budget was established prior to the announcement of the plan to try and resolve outstanding appeals, only $230,000 was budgeted for refunds arising from successful appeals.  However, with 94 individual non-residential properties in Milton combining for 591 appeals (some dating back to 2001), the town could easily be on the hook for refunds that far surpass the budgeted amount.While the town has no direct control over MPAC, councillors did pass a resolution to ask MPAC to undertake the necessary supplementary assessments, and resolved to bring the issue to the attention of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

One of the seminar/workshops that AMO had this week was an update from MPAC by Chair of the Board Dan Mathieson and Antoni Wisniowski, the new CAO and the status of a number of things, and whats to come.  Needless to say it didn’t have a lot of answers to questions during the presentations, but they did do a Q&A with attendees afterwards.  As you would expect, Regional Councillor Colin Best was right up there for the questions and highlighted many of our concerns raised in that motion Milton council passed.

From what we were told at the conference, the slides and possibly video of some of these sessions might be available so if and when it does, I will post here on my site.

I will get into more detail soon regarding the different sessions myself and members of council did attend.  We were there en masse and we tried to spread ourselves out to maximize our numbers but there was still some overlap in some of the sessions.

If you have any questions or want some specific information on sessions I attended on behalf of the Town of Milton, either post a  comment or send me an email Mike@MikeCluett.ca

Boyne Survey Moves Forward

With the approval of the Boyne Survey financial agreements, we are moving closer to adding another estimated 50,000 new people to the town of Milton.  I have some concerns about the estimated total however.  Municipalities have been burned in the past underestimating the number of people projected for each area, which can lead to under servicing of the area, not just by the town or region, but by the province of Ontario as well.

We don’t have to look very far in the Greater Milton Area (GMA) to see problems that the Region of Peel had to endure over the past several years.  There is a new reality to home ownership in many parts of Canada and Halton isn’t immune to this…multiple families per home. 

With the prices of homes on the rise, the cost of home ownership is also increasing.  There are families who have difficulty paying day to day bills in our economy with both parents working.  It is apparent that this new reality of home ownership will mean more people living in areas than planned for.  This can affect many services including water and waste as well as provincial services like education.

Its important to keep in mind our estimations going forward when site plans are submitted to council for review and approval.  When our reports state that 50,000 new residents will move into the Boyne Survey when its all said and done, I worry that it might be a lot more.  I would be more comfortable planning for a higher total in the range of 60-70,000 so that we can over estimate instead of under estimate when it comes to servicing of the new survey.

More on this to come, but here’s the story by Julia Le from the Milton Canadian Champion.

Council approves agreement to develop Boyne Survey

 

The Town of Milton is one step closer to developing 2,300 acres area of land bounded by Louis St. Laurent Avenue to the north, James Snow Parkway to the east, Britannia Road to the south and Tremaine Road to the west.

During a special meeting Monday night, councillors unanimously approved the Boyne financial agreement between the Town and the Boyne Landowners Group to develop the Boyne Survey Secondary Plan area.

It’s the third residential growth area located in the Milton urban expansion area. The other two growth areas are the Bristol and Sherwood surveys, which have been under construction for most of the past decade.

The Boyne Survey Secondary Plan area is planned to accommodate an additional 50,000 residents when fully developed. It’s intended to integrate with the existing urban area.

The report outlines the deal agreed upon by the Town’s negotiation team, which met with representatives of the Boyne Landowners Group over the past several months to iron out the details of the planning and financial requirements associated with developing the Boyne Survey.

The landowners group has agreed to pay a capital contribution on a per unit basis in addition to development charges when residential building permits are issued.

The contribution is expected to generate about $38 to $40 million, which will be used to finance infrastructure required to support the growth of the area. This in turn, will minimize the impact on property taxes and assist in keeping dept capacity within legislative and policy limits.

Town Treasurer Linda Leeds said the Boyne Landowners Group has also agreed to provide, at no cost to the Town, a total of 105 acres of parkland within the secondary plan area.  

“In addition, the landowners have agreed to acquire and transfer to the Town at no cost lands that are known as the CMHL (Central Milton Holdings) lands,” she said.

This additional 158.4 acres of parkland is located just outside the secondary plan area. The acquisition of the CMHL, located on the north side of Main Street, west of the CN Rail line and the 43.7 Ha (108 acres) of parkland known as the Jannock lands, is expected to be finalized now that council has approved the financial agreement. It will accommodate the community-scale facilities required to serve not only future residents of the Boyne Survey, but also the broader community.

“The CMHL lands are strategically located. They’ll be joining onto the Jannock lands that overall will create the largest urban park in Canada, which is a real legacy for this town council to be able to secure,” said Leeds.

Other agreements include the early dedication of lands so that the Town can construct roads and plan for the appropriate infrastructure in accordance with the Town’s capital program.

Council heard from delegate Glen Schnarr of the Boyne Landowners Group, who expressed his personal satisfaction with the agreement.

“In our minds since we conceived the notion of the off-site parkland dedication of the CMHL lands so close to the core of downtown Milton, at the end of the day personally I am very proud to be a part of that,” said Schnarr, president of land development consulting firm Glen Schnarr & Associates Inc. “I know that the landowners group feels it’s a monumental accomplishment and I believe through working with your staff what we have achieved if the agreement is approved this evening is a major moment in the history of Milton.”

Mayor Gord Krantz thanked the Town staff and the landowners for spending a considerable amount of hours pulling together the agreement.

He told The Milton Canadian Champion that growth should pay for itself and the town is well on track of making it happen.

Bill Mann, the Town’s director of planning and development, used the analogy of the agreement being the first domino in a set of dominoes ready to fall into place.

Now that the agreement has been approved by town council, he said secondary plan , with minor medications made, will go before them again in the fall. It will then be passed to Halton Region’s director of planning, the delegated authority to give final approval.

If all goes according to plan, the developers will then enter an agreement with the Region and be part of the Region’s infrastructure staging plan and allocation program. A part of this process will be the planning of subdivisions through the town. By 2014, the Town can expect to issue building permits for the expected 17,500 residential units to be built in the Boyne Survey area.

Mann said the Town is on the right track to building a balanced community within Milton.

“Non-residential growth is a direct result of residential growth,” he said, adding that big companies are looking for a local employment base that’s growing because of affordable housing.

Mann said the Town has been making a conscious effort at providing a full range of retail shops while maintaining the downtown core as the centre focus. With the anticipated addition of the CHML lands, Mann said residents can look forward to 1,200 acres of green space that connects to the Jannock lands, Kelso Conservation Area, Country Heritage Park and is a gateway to the Niagara Escarpment.

The town is in its third phase of residential and employment growth originally designated in the 1997 Official Plan. The plan anticipated Halton Region’s delivery in 2000 of ‘The Big Pipe’, carrying Lake Ontario water up from Oakville to Milton, and a population that would grow to about 165,000 people by 2021.  

Council To Lobby For Schools In Milton at AMO Conference

Milton politicians to fight for education dollars at AMO conference

Mayor Gord Krantz and eight councillors will be lobbying provincial ministers to invest in Milton’s education at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference next month in Ottawa.

On the heels of a unanimously-passed motion last month that calls on the provincial government to support its Places to Grow legislation with a formula that will send education dollars to high-growth communities, the councillors are looking to get their message across to those who can help make it happen at the conference, held from August 19 to 22.

…  Krantz, who has attended the annual event numerous times over the course of his 32 years as the mayor of Milton, said the conference is the perfect opportunity to talk about the issues, discuss solutions and get feedback from other levels of government and municipalities.

He said not only is it a learning experience to hear how others have dealt with similar challenges, but it’s also an opportunity to network and speak face-to-face with some of the province’s key officials about their concerns.

Milton’s high schools are currently at 140 per cent capacity, and the situation is expected to only worsen given that almost 25 per cent of Milton’s population is less than 14 years old.  We’re not only the fastest growing community in Ontario, but in all of Canada, said Krantz.

He said it’s challenging keeping up with the demand for infrastructure and the demand for new schools.  “It’s disruptive to families,” he said, talking about how a child can be moved to a different school two or three times in one year.

Cluett, who attended last year’s conference in London, said the councillors had great success when they collectively went to fight for the Milton District Hospital expansion last year. A month after the conference, the hospital was approved by the provincial government for a 320,000-sq.-ft. expansion. It’s scheduled for completion by 2015 or earlier.

“I’m a strong advocate for meeting with ministers en masse and talking to them (about our issues),” he said. “They got the point about the hospital expansion and gave it the green light.”  He said he’s hopeful they’ll be able to do the same for building more schools.

“With our rapidly increasing population, kids are oozing out of the walls of the schools,” said Cluett, adding that it’s not only an infrastructure issue, but a quality of life one, too.

For more from the Milton Canadian Champion, click here.

2013 Budget Call Report – Possible 5.1% Increase

Milton 5.1% tax hike predicted From Milton Canadian Champion, Kim Arnott

Milton property taxes could jump by as much as five per cent next year, as the Town grapples with issues that could put “unprecedented pressure” on both its capital and operating budgets.

Along with inflationary pressures of more than three per cent, a staff report suggests the 2013 operating budget could be impacted by a delay in moving new homes onto the assessment rolls.

Uncertainty around the capital budget is based on possible changes to slot revenues and a delay in receiving development charge money from the Region due to appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

“In order to provide services at 2012 levels, staff are projecting a tax rate increase of 5.1 per cent in 2013,” said the report presented to councillors Monday.

Councillors directed staff to begin developing the budget, and outline options for tax increase scenarios ranging between one and five percent.  In response to the report, Mayor Gord Krantz said he’s speculating the tax increase will come in at five percent, but added, “I hope I’m proven wrong.”

Although inflation based on the consumer price index is forecast for about 2 per cent next year, a municipal price index, which weighs the costs of salaries, benefits, construction costs and items like asphalt, is predicted at 3.37 per cent.

Beyond that, staff are concerned that a province-wide assessment update taking place this year will delay the addition of newly-built homes to the assessment rolls.

While only temporary, that delay requires the Town to rely on its reserve funds to cover the cost of expanding services into new areas of the community until it begins receiving taxes from those properties.

“We are looking at some challenging times,” said Councillor Colin Best.  More significant is the uncertainty around the future of gaming at Mohawk Racetrack, following this spring’s announcement that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is planning changes to gambling centres across the province.

Since 1998, slot revenue has been used to help fund capital projects, with the current nine-year capital forecast relying on nearly $50 million in slot revenue for funding.

The Milton Community Fund, which aids local non-profit initiatives, is funded solely from slot revenues.

Just recently, the Town of Milton received more than $1.4 million from the OLG for hosting the Slots at Mohawk Racetrack/ The revenue was the Town’s first-quarter revenue payment.

“The uncertainty regarding the future of the slot revenues creates financial risk for both of these programs and alternative revenue sources may need to be explored including increasing taxes,” said the staff report.

Finally, projects within the capital budget that are to be funded through development charges could be delayed as a result of appeals to the OMB.

Staff will be working with limited public feedback as they develop the budget. Only 87 residents completed the online budget survey on the Town’s website, a decline from about 200 respondents last year.

Councillor Mike Cluett described the decline as “a disappointment,” adding, “We need to hear from taxpayers even more now than ever, due to all the pressures we are under.”

Most people who did respond to the survey said they are generally satisfied with current levels of Town service. Park maintenance was the only area where the majority people thought services should be increased.

Almost three-quarters of respondents (72 per cent) said they would support a property tax increase to maintain existing services, with the majority saying the rate of inflation would be an appropriate increase.

Councillors are expected to get their first look at the 2013 budget by November 26, with a decision by town council scheduled for December 17.