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Study shows Orillia taxpayers paying less

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

Orillia ratepayers are paying less on average than many other municipalities in Ontario, particularly those in the counties of Simcoe and Dufferin and District of Muskoka.

That was one of the main findings in the 2016 BMA Municipal Study, highlighting data from 2015. In nine of the 14 taxation categories, including multi-residential high-rise and office buildings (per square foot), the annual taxes in Orillia were less than the average in the three-region comparison area. It was lower than the survey average in 13 of the 14 categories.

Only large industrial -- of which there is only one property in Orillia -- is above average in both Simcoe-Dufferin-Muskoka and across the entire province.

Treasurer Jim Lang called it one of the positive parts of the survey that indicates the city is on the right track.

"What this study does is compare like-properties between municipalities and it shows across the entire tax base that the property taxes in Orillia are in what the study calls a low-to-medium category," Lang said. "There are parts of that where we are in the top 15% of municipalities."

For 2015, 105 of Ontario's 444 municipalities took part. The Orillia group also consisted of Barrie, Bracebridge, Collingwood, Gravenhurst, Hunstville, Innisfil, Orangeville and Springwater.

Taxation was one of four key indicators highlighted from the study to show how the city is performing in comparison to other municipalities across the province, alongside growth, financial and cost of services.

"It shows how well we're doing up against them," explained Jas Rattigan, manager of accounting services. "At the same time, it shows how well we're doing over the years and what our trends are like. To compare ourselves with ourselves, almost."

While the city's reserves are lower than the comparator group, increases to the reserves have been noted since 2012. As well, the debt ratio per capita is among the lowest at 3.2%, meaning each Orillia ratepayer was "responsible" for about $450 in 2015. That number is expected to shrink to about $300 by the end of this year.

It wasn't all good news, though.

Only Bracebridge has seen slower population growth than Orillia among the nine comparator municipalities, and only Gravenhurst has a fewer amount of residents under the age of 19. On top of that, the study showed Orillia to have the lowest average annual household income, at $71,747, however chief financial officer Bob Ripley warned the study measured income, not wealth, something to consider particularly because of the growing senior population.

Staff warned the building permit information should also be taken with a grain of salt. That value per captia was about $700 less on average over a three-year time frame than the comparator group, but more readily available data showed that figure changing dramatically.

Rattigan added the document doesn't really contain any surprising data, because it deals with information already a year-and-a-half old.

However, it remains a valuable tool. Lang called it a "snapshot" that helps give council and staff a little more understanding to where the city stands.

"It's kind of a background piece of material," he said. "A tool, out of a tool box, that council can use when they're making decisions. Every decision a council makes affects one of the measures in the study somehow."

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