Nowhere to go but up

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When North Grenville was formed in 1998, we became a lower-tier municipality within the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville (UCLG), which became the upper tier (or parent) municipality. Since that time, residents of North Grenville have held the belief at various times that UCLG doesn’t do enough, or lacks a sense of urgency, when it comes to the needs and wants of North Grenville. With this in mind, let’s consider the prospect of what becoming a single-tier municipal government (similar to UCLG partners Gananoque, Brockville and Prescott) might look like.

North Grenville gets one vote out of ten at the UCLG Council table, but represents about 24% of the population of UCLG. Without its partner municipalities (mentioned above), UCLG has a population of 69,568, as of the 2016 Census, while North Grenville has a population of 16,451, almost double the combined population of Gananoque and Prescott. The municipality of the Town of Westport (population approx. 650) has the same number of votes as North Grenville on the UCLG Council. To simplify, the Mayor of Westport has the same voting power as our mayor, despite having only 1/25 of our population.

Not only is North Grenville the largest municipality in UCLG by population, but, logically, it’s also the largest contributor of tax revenue ($8.4 million). Consider that approximately 16% of your municipal property tax bill goes to the School Boards, 51% stays in North Grenville, and 33% goes to the UCLG. If North Grenville became a single tier municipality, that would mean a huge potential tax revenue increase (up to 66%), to be used towards our municipal budget.

Being a single-tier municipality, we would need to assume new responsibilities, such as the maintenance, repair and replacement of all roads and bridges in North Grenville.

Currently, the UCLG is responsible for a large number of roads in the municipality, including those in our highest traffic areas, such as County Road 43, County Road 44 (Prescott Street/Rideau Street), and County Road 18 (Clothier Street).

Case in point: there has been no real progress on the proposed expansion of County Road 43 since the project was unveiled three years ago. Despite assurances from our mayor that it is the #1 priority item on the UCLG infrastructure project list, it has yet to happen. As a single-tier municipality, the responsibility for executing all aspects of this project (including financially) would fall entirely on the shoulders of the municipality. This particular project requires that the bulk of the funds come from the provincial (or indirectly the federal) government to the tune of about $20 million. Would we be more successful than UCLG in securing this funding?

North Grenville would possibly have to assume responsibility for establishing and operating its own paramedic services, social housing, family support, and child services. Or an agreement could be reached with UCLG to continue to deliver these services on behalf of North Grenville, similar to agreements that UCLG partner municipalities like Gananoque, Prescott and Brockville have.

UniteSingleThere’s a lot to consider when thinking about becoming a single-tier municipality. It’s possible that we’re not ready to take on the added responsibilities, or anticipated financial commitments yet. But it’s a conversation that should take place soon, if we’re serious about planning for our long-term future.

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