September 30, 2021

The Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association (MRA) would like to thank Council and staff for listening to the MRA and members of the public’s concerns regarding the lack of public engagement in the development of annual budgets over the past couple of years. The MRA was very pleased to see the establishment of the “Engage Muskoka Lakes” website that provides every concerned citizen with a forum to provide their input into the budget process. While the input topics appear limited, the expansion of the audience participation is a great improvement. Thank you!

The MRA would like to articulate six major bullet points that we believe need serious evaluation by this Council to ensure the long term financial and economic viability of this municipality, while providing service levels commensurate with most citizens’ expectations.

  1. The MRA for many years has expressed significant concerns regarding the inadequate level of non-restricted reserves, based on provincial guidelines. Funding of reserves needs to be increased and long term policies established to ensure prudent use and replenishment of these funds.
  2. Last year the Township embarked on a review and update of the Master Fire Plan. The MRA provided input to the consultant. To date no updated plan has been made public. The MRA wants to ensure that current certification standards and levels of service for both emergency and fire suppression services are maintained. Any increase in fire insurance premiums due to a reduction in coverage and/or service levels would be totally unacceptable.
  3. As our businesses crawl out from under the huge financial costs of this COVID pandemic they are economically fragile. The MRA is requesting that the Township increase financial support to the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce so they can provide enhanced marketing and other support services to our businesses in 2022. The MRA believes financial support should be similar to that other Muskoka municipalities provide to their Chambers of Commerce.
  4. The Township has two arenas and twelve community centres, most of them were long ago fully depreciated assets. They are expensive to properly maintain and operate and they are grossly underutilized. The Township needs to plan for the future, by rationalizing the quantity and strategically plan to build a reduced number of replacements facilities to suit the population’s future needs.
  5. The Township significantly ramped up spending for by-law enforcement in 2021. The MRA believes that management should evaluate the efficacy of this and any other enhanced level of service. A cost benefit analysis should be conducted to make certain the changes were warranted.
  6. Public Works is the largest cost department in the Township. The capital plan for this budget and the ten year forecast plan needs to be honed for more realistic projections. Past multi year capital needs grew substantially from budget to budget. This budget and future projections need to be more rigorously evaluated for actual needs and realistic costs.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide the MRA’s input in the lead up to the 2022 budget.

Don Furniss
Director – Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association

Doug Bryden
Director – Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association