A Solution to House All of Our Residents
How to Permanently House Owen Sound's Unhoused
Figure 7, shows total expenses per capita. When we look at our Primary
Comparative Group, as shown with red lettering, we see that Owen Sound once
again leads this group by significant margins. We see that Strathroy is quite a
bit lower than Owen Sound in total expenses. However, Middlesex Centre is the
closest this time with expenses per capita of $1,500 compared to Owen Sound at
$2,399. Although it does look like much, the difference of $890 per resident is
a huge sum. When you multiply this by Owen Sound’s population it works out to be
a difference in expenses to run the city of $19 million. Middlesex does have a
slightly smaller population so it could be that they do not provide the
same level of services that Owen Sound provided its residents.
When we look at what the Sunshine List is costing us each year, beyond what Strathroy-Caradoc pays, it becomes clear why our Salaries and Benefits expense is so high as compared to Strathroy. Owen Sound pays nearly $4.9 million more on Sunshine List salaries than Strathroy-Caradoc. This suggests that senior staff salaries have grown well beyond the city’s growth? This didn’t happen overnight. I suspect that it occurred over a twenty (20) year period with annual incremental changes that would go unnoticed in any particular budget year. Regardless of how we got here, it appears that the city has an overabundance of senior staff in comparison to Strathroy. Council owes it to taxpayers to fully investigate this disparity and direct the changes necessary to right-size management staff. However, given the magnitude of this disparity, it will take a few years to correct this apparent imbalance.
In Part I we saw that Owen Sound’s Salaries and Benefits Expense was, at a
minimum, $11.6 million more than what it should be based a comparison with Strathroy. In Part II we learned that Owen Sound has 73 senior staff earning
$100,000 or more, while the closest municipality to Owen Sound in the study,
Strathroy, has only 34 senior staff on this List. That tells us that Owen Sound
could save at least $5,0 million each and every year if it just matched Strathroy’s
numbers on the Sunshine List.
In summary, it is clear to me that Owen Sound has expenses that, at a minimum, are $5 million more than they really need to be. On a positive note, a portion of the annual savings that will materialize from expense reductions should be directed to address our growing social problems. We currently have a very serious problem in our community where some of our residents are living in tents and sleeping in the streets. We saw that Owen Sound spends in the order of $12 million more on salaries and benefits than Strathroy. If Council were to begin to practice sound financial management and reduce expenses, by at least $10 million, to be close to Strathroy’s, we could provide housing for the 50 plus unhoused residents in Owen and at the same time have enough left over to give taxpayers an immediate 10% reduction in taxes as well as freeze taxes for the next five (5) years.
The feedback I received when offering solutions to candidates, to mitigate the pain felt by these residents, was that this is a “County Problem”. I disagree with this analysis. Although the County is attempting to address this issue for all municipalities in the County, it is a City of Owen Sound Problem and I’ve just given you the solution.
What do you think of this potential permanent solution?