- by Jim Hutton

One question that many who have read my analysis of Owen Sound’s current financial situation is: “So our city has fallen on hard times, but haven’t all municipalities been struggling?”. To answer this question we really need to compare our city to similarly sized communities in our area. The best candidate that I found for this comparison is the Town of Collingwood which is located just one hour to our East.

Population Comparison

Figure 1; Comparing Population Changes source: Statistics Canada

The census is taken every five years and the results are available on the Statistics Canada website which makes if very easy for anyone to access. The first thing that we notice when we compare populations is that in 2001 Owen Sound’s population was actually 5,417 residents greater than Collingwood; but 20 years later in 2021, Collingwood was 3,199 residents greater than Owen Sound. During this period Collingwood grew by 54.69% while Owen Sound grew by less than one percent - 0.73%.

BMA Consulting Inc. prepares annual reports on a number of aspects of municipal governments. Municipalities that subscribe to their services receive detailed annual reports on their performance.These reports are available for anyone to access, and are usually posted on municipal websites. I relied on these BMA reports, in addition to data compiled by Statistics Canada and the audited financials for each municipality, to complete this comparison.


Figure 2; Comparing Tax Revenue Changes    source: BMA Municipal Studies

The graph above shows the changes in tax revenue for both municipalities from 2014 to 2021. The first thing that pops out at you is that Owen Sound’s revenue from taxation appears significantly higher than that for Collingwood. However, this graph is displaying the tax revenue for each $100,000 of assessment. So, unless the two municipalities have the same total value of assessment it doesn’t really tell whole story. As we will see later Collingwood and Owen Sound do not have the same total property value or assessment.

The feature that is most important about this graph is the direction that each municipality’s taxation is headed. It is obvious that each year Collingwood is relying on less and less revenue from taxation. So, it’s either reducing its overall expenses, growing its assessment or growing revenue from sources other than taxation. Owen Sound on the other hand is headed in the opposite direction. In contrast to Collingwood, Owen Sound’s dependency on revenue from taxation is increasing each year. This means that the burden on Taxpayers in Collingwood is getting lighter each year while the burden on Owen Sound taxpayers is getting heavier each year.

The question is; Can Owen Sound residents continue to shoulder an ever increasing tax burden? To get a feeling for the ability of Owen Sound residents to absorb tax increase we need to see how our household incomes compare to others.

AVG Income1

Figure 3; Average Household Income    source: BMA Municipal Studies

The graph above shows the average household incomes in 2021 for a few similarly sized municipalities as well as our neighbours next door. You can easily see that incomes in Owen Sound are significantly lower than the similarly sized municipalities. Surprisingly household incomes are also much lower than Georgian Bluffs and Meaford. This really means that Owen Sound residents are the least able to absorb tax increases. Unfortunately, as we saw before, we are already the highest taxed community in Southern Ontario and things are getting worse. Collingwood is not shown because it was not included in the 2021 BMA data for this category.

To really understand what this means for Owen Sound residents we will now look at what percentage of our incomes that we have to spend on taxes compared to Collingwood.


Figure 4; Comparing Taxes as Percentage of Income    source: BMA Municipal Studies

As you probably guessed things get even worse when we compare taxes as a percentage of median household income.  As shown in the above graph a homeowner in Owen Sound in 2021 paid 1.2% more of their income than they would have paid had they lived in Collingwood.  To put this in perspective 1.2% of the average household income ($75,861), is $910.  This is within about 1% of the $899 shown on the above in figure 2, that was calculated using the unweighted assessment.  This gives us a high degree of confidence in both of these graphs since they were calculated using different criteria.

In Part II we will compare Total Assessment and take a look at how
our Debt compares. We will also examine our annual – Interest Payments

photo: Joe Mabel



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