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Bradford mayor puts his council on notice to review relationship with County

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In Bradford West Gwillimbury
Apr 5th, 2017
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Mayor Rob Keffer

New Tecumseth Free Press

Bradford West Gwillimbury mayor Rob Keffer put a notice of motion in play last night for his council to consider when it meets next month that would trigger a review focused on three options related to its future as a member municipality in Simcoe County.

They are:
1) What an improved relationship with Simcoe County would look like;
2) Would Bradford West Gwillimbury be better off as an independent municipality, like Barrie or Orillia; and
3) Would Bradford West Gwillimbury be better off joining York Region.

Mr. Keffer posted a statement on his Facebook page setting out his reasons.

“Last evening at Town Council, I tabled a notice of motion that, if passed later this month, will instruct our staff to undertake an investigation and report back on three options: 1) what an improved relationship with Simcoe County would look like; 2) would Bradford West Gwillimbury be better off as an independent municipality, like Barrie or Orillia; and 3) would Bradford West Gwillimbury be better off joining York Region.

“Let me explain why I want to start this discussion.

“As one of our Town’s representatives to the County Council for over six years, it is clear that we work well together, particularly on agriculture and transportation.
However, for the past few years, it has been increasingly clear that Bradford West Gwillimbury—the second-fastest-growing town in Ontario—has different needs than our smaller, rural neighbours to the north. I will have more to say in my monthly column in The Bradford Topic and in an interview with The Bradford Times, but such issues include how tax rates are calculated, the County’s increases in taxes being far greater than what the Town manages through our focus on fiscal discipline, the disparity between our home values and those in the north, the County’s request to investigate water and wastewater, the County’s delay on support for our seniors’ housing projects, the fact we are not the County’s top priority for affordable housing funding, and issues related to waste collection, including yard waste.

“I am not looking to pick a fight, but rather to ensure we investigate what is best for Bradford West Gwillimbury. This discussion will be a thorough, thoughtful process. We are not rushing into anything. But, as Mayor, it is important that I ask these tough questions on your behalf to ensure we always get the best service for the best price possible.

“At the next meeting of Council, we will vote on my proposal for a staff study into these questions, and that will then help to guide further dialogue. In the meantime, please email me at rkeffer@townofbwg.com or comment below and I will do my best to answer your questions.”

According to the 2016 Census, BWG’s population was 35,325, an increase of 25.8 per cent over 2011. New Tecumseth’s population in 2016 was 34,242, which increased by 13.3 per cent over 2011.

Mr. Keffer told Free Press Online this morning via email the Tax Ratios and Tax Shifts for Simcoe County tax purposes, due to the new MPAC Assessments means a 5.16 per cent shift for BWG which he called “unprecedented, as usually these shifts are less than .75 per cent.”

“You will notice that Adj Tos taxpayers will forward $106,873 more to the County, BWG $781,971 more, and New Tecumseth $264,744 more. This is before the two per cent budget increase at the County level is factored in,” he wrote.

Mayor Keffer also isn’t keen on Simcoe County’s latest overtures to become an active participant in water and wastewater jurisdictions. He voted against last month’s motion at County council to activiate the provincial facilitator’s office to meet with member municipalities to discuss a role for the upper tier.

“BWG has always financed and completed their own water and wastewater infrastructure. We have an inter municipal agreement with Innisfil for water which is working quite well. This infrastructure has been paid for with development charges, and user fees,” he wrote.

“My fear is that with County involvement with water and wastewater, the cost will be borne from the general tax revenue, of which BWG is paying a larger and larger share. Also, water and wastewater is a lower tier responsibility, and we would lose control of planning and growth decisions.”

In late 2001, then New Tecumseth council struck a restructuring committee, and hired a consultant to review separated city status. The report was presented to council in June 2002 comparing the service delivery costs provided by the County versus separated city status. The report sat on a shelf until September 2004, when the restructuring committee, chaired at the time by councillor Richard Norcross, put separated city status back on the agenda. Nothing came of it in the end.

“It is too early to say what is the best direction for BWG,” said Mr. Keffer. “I am asking for more information and study so everyone can make an informed decision.”

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