County drafts complaint on OPP billing formula
By Chad Ingram
June 7, 2016
“Please consider this our official complaint with respect to the billing formula for allocating costs to municipalities for policing services delivered by the Ontario Provincial Police, and our formal request that your office undertake an investigation into its fairness,” reads the submission the County of Haliburton will send to the office of the Ombudsman of Ontario.
County councillors decided earlier this spring to lodge a complaint about the province’s new OPP billing formula with the Ombudsman. Coming into effect in 2015, the formula, phased in during a five-year period, redistributed OPP costs on a per-household basis throughout the province. Under the formula, seasonal residences are weighted equally with year-round ones, which the county government has contended repeatedly is unfair and a central flaw of the formula.
It means that cottage communities like the townships of Haliburton County are hardest hit. The county’s collective OPP bill will double from about $3 million to about $ 6 million during the phase-in.
Councillors reviewed the draft submission at a May 25 meeting.
“At the root of our concern with the new formula is the fact that base costs are allocated on a ‘per household’ basis that includes residential units, farmlands on which a farm residence exists, and seasonal dwelling units,” the submission reads. “In addition, the formula takes into account fully occupied commercial and industrial business properties. We believe the calculation of households is systemically unfair for a number of reasons.
“First, the calculation does not take into account that seasonal households are counted in the same manner as a home that is occupied on a year round basis. Our seasonal residences are only occupied five months of the year, and many are not even accessible during the winter months.This problem is compounded with waterfront properties which have much higher market value assessments and consequently pay a proportionately higher share for a service that they do not access for much of the year. This is inconsistent with the approach taken with respect to commercial and industrial properties where only those properties that are fully occupied are counted. Even a commercial property with an attached residential unit is considered to be two units even if there are multiple commercial tenants.
“Secondly, as noted above, a fully occupied industrial or commercial property having multiple tenants (stores) is counted as only one unit. These properties may have multiple tenants (eg. a strip mall) that could house businesses that generate significant demand for policing services. This also results in communities like ours, who have a small commercial and industrial base, potentially (and unfairly) subsidizing other communities. Those other communities would benefit from an artificially low base cost calculation even though a higher level of policing infrastructure (officers, cruisers, etc.) would be required to provide adequate coverage.”
A third concern listed in the submission is that the per household model incorrectly assumes that equal services are delivered in each of the municipalities.
Quoting a 2012 report from the auditor general, it reads, “officers face significantly different workloads depending on where they are assigned, with some officers handling 54 per cent to 137 per cent more calls than officers in other detachments.”
“Simply put, household numbers do not drive crime,” the submission reads. “Population, demographics and municipal characteristics are the factors that affect policing costs.”