Shared Services

Information Regarding Shared Services Negotiations

What are shared services?

Burk’s Falls, Armour and Ryerson have a long history of sharing services including the Arena, Landfill and Fire, as well as the Library, Economic Development and a number of other important community initiatives. A history of cost sharing formulas illustrates that the percentages have changed over time. The main factors have always been usage and assessment, or ability to pay.

There are many services across the Province that are shared. Largely, they rely on models that consider statistics such as weighted assessment, population, and households. To learn more about sharing services click here.

I reside/own property in Ryerson Township…how do shared services affect me?

Shared Services mean that you have an arena in the community, a landfill site for waste, excellent fire protection, and other initiatives and events that contribute to making this a vibrant place to live, work, and play. On its own, Ryerson Township could not afford to offer the level of service currently provided through our shared service agreement.

The current agreement between the three Municipalities ends at the end of 2017. This year so far there have been four Tri Council meetings held on the topic of negotiating a new agreement. (A timeline of negotiations since 2015 is available here.) At these meetings, a number of cost-sharing models were presented using the Fire Department budget as an example. The Fire budget was analyzed first because the usage statistics are readily available.

What is a cost-sharing model?

Our current shared service agreement is based on the following contributions:
Armour 50%, Burk’s Falls 25%, Ryerson 25%

During recent negotiations, each of Armour, Ryerson and Burk’s Falls presented new models and formulas for consideration in a new shared service agreement. The main models under consideration included the idea of dividing Core (most) costs equally one-third each, and some combination of usage, population, households served and assessment. The three municipalities have also looked at a combination of these approaches. To review these calculations, click here.

I heard that the three Councils came to a new agreement and that Ryerson and Burk’s Falls reneged on that agreement. What happened?

Although it was reported that a new agreement was reached on June 27, no resolutions by the respective Councils were passed on this matter. Councils can only make decisions by resolution or by-law. To read Ryerson’s minutes from the June 27 Tri Council meeting click here. Burk’s Falls hosted the meeting; read the Burk’s Falls notes from the meeting here.

Armour takes the position that the core funding model is best where each municipality would pay 1/3 of most costs. Ryerson prefers to divide costs on the basis of usage or potential benefits. A good deal of the meeting was spent discussing various ways to use both models – in other words, what percentage of the costs should be split equally three ways and what portion should be divided according to the present 50-25-25 model. The furthest Armour would go in departing from equally sharing the majority of core costs, was a 70%/30% split where the share to be paid by Ryerson ratepayers would rise from 25% (about equal to our share of total households and assessment) to 31% of total costs. Furthermore, Armour implied that if a new agreement was reached it would have to be put in place a year early, or Armour would not be open to future negotiations. As noted in the minutes, Armour “requires the new agreement to be in effect in 2017. Entering into an agreement will depend on that. If we wait and expect it to not renew until 2018 then Armour will decide what the impact of that will be and will change what they will pay.”

Why is the core funding model not fair and equitable for citizens of Ryerson?

Our joint Fire Department is administered by Ryerson. Its purpose is to protect the lives and property of all residents of the three municipalities. Forty-six percent of the population and 52% of the households it protects are located in Armour Township. Armour’s position during negotiations was that it should pay about one-third of the costs to receive about one-half of the protection. It says Ryerson should pay an equal one-third of the costs to protect its 21% of the total population and 25% of the households. All Municipalities agreed to use the same statistics for calculations.

This does not seem fair or reasonable. Our ratepayers would be subsidizing fire protection for its richer neighbour’s much larger population and much larger number of buildings. A similar argument applies to the landfill site, the Arena and the Library. If Armour has roughly half the population and number of households generating users, paying a much lesser share of the costs is not fair and equitable.

Why did Burk’s Falls and Ryerson hold a meeting without Armour?

One of the outcomes of the June 27 meeting was that Burk’s Falls and Ryerson were directed to meet and determine how they would share the portion Armour was not paying. Our Councils met to discuss this point, but quickly decided that the core model discussed by all three Councils on June 27 was not viable where the best split Armour would offer was 70% Core (1/3 each) and 30% based on the current formula. These concerns were outlined in a letter to Armour Township dated August 8, 2016.

A secondary reason for Burk’s Falls and Ryerson to meet separately is that we do have some joint interests and discussions at Tri Council have been dominated by Armour in such a way that has suppressed an open exchange of opinions. This made it difficult for alternative views on any subject to be usefully discussed.

What led Armour to withdraw from shared services?

We are not sure. In response to the August 8 letter by Burk’s Falls and Ryerson and proposal that a neutral third-party moderate future negotiations, Armour Township issued a media release dated August 24 withdrawing from Shared Services effective January 1, 2018. Armour’s action was not a “withdrawal” or early termination of the existing agreement which was always going to end on January 1, 2018.

Were Burk’s Falls and Ryerson unwilling to negotiate?

Burk’s Falls and Ryerson both responded to Armour’s decision by clearly indicating their wish to continue negotiations. We believe the rationale for cooperation is clear. However, we also believe that the present impasse will not easily be broken without the assistance of a third-party able to assess each Party’s position and suggest alternative approaches.

If the three Municipalities don’t continue to share services, how will this affect my services? Will it affect my taxes?

Either services will decrease or taxes will increase. With Armour withdrawing from shared services, the remaining partners, Ryerson and Burk’s Falls, will need to evaluate our ability to provide services. If an agreement with Armour is not reached, in order to maintain the current level of service you receive without significant tax increases, Ryerson Council will have to consider other options. This may include continuing with Burk’s Falls or seeking other partners with which to share services. On its own, Ryerson is simply unable to afford the level of services currently provided through the shared service agreement.

Is there coverage of this issue in the media?

Yes, click here to read about shared services in the Almaguin News.

What happens now?

Keep informed by checking this page often and plan to attend the upcoming Council meetings:

Regular meetings are held according to the following schedule:

Armour Council – 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month
Burk’s Falls Council – 4th Tuesday of each month
Ryerson Council – 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month

Tri Council Meetings:
September 26, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. (Seniors Centre)
October 24, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. (Seniors Centre)