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.
Owen Sound and Collingwood Ė Part II
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
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.
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
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
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
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;
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.
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
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