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- by Jim Hutton

When we compared Owen Sound to Collingwood we found that Owen Sound’s Salaries and Benefits expense was $4 million greater than Collingwood’s. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story since Collingwood contracts out their police services so this cost doesn’t show up in the salary wage envelope. We also have to be cautious when comparing Salaries and Benefits Expense since we cannot assume that all municipalities provide the same level of services. To get a better understanding, we need to expand the comparison to include several other municipalities. I selected twelve municipalities that include both similarly sized and larger municipalities.


Figure 1; Population Comparison source: Statistics Canada 

The above graph shows the relative populations of the municipalities that were selected for the comparison. As you can see there are eight (8) municipalities with populations greater than Owen Sound and four (4) municipalities with lower populations than Owen Sound.
Note, the five (5) municipalities in red are the Primary Comparative Group.

These include; Strathroy-Caradoc, Springwater, Middlesex Centre and Tillsonburg, along with Owen Sound. They will help us monitor how their position, relative to Owen Sound, changes in future graphs. Strathroy is most similar to Owen Sound since it has a municipal police force. The other three contract with the OPP so we expect their Salaries and Wages to be much lower than Owen Sound’s. Also, note that there are two much larger municipalities, with populations several times that of Owen Sound. It will be interesting to see how these large cities compare to Owen Sound.

Salaries Benefits

 Figure 2; Salaries and Benefits    source: Audited Financial Statements available on the Municipal website

The total Salaries and Benefits for each municipality are shown in figure 2, above. Note the population numbers at the bottom of each bar. These will help to remind you of their populations relative to Owen Sound’s. As you would expect, the municipalities that have populations that are much larger than Owen Sound all have a larger Salaries and Benefits expense.

You can see that three of those in our Primary Comparator Group, Middlesex, Sprinwater and Tilsonburg, are considerably lower than Owen Sound. This is not surprising since these municipalities all contract out their Police Services so police salaries are not included in their total Salaries and Benefits Expense. Strathroy-Caradoc on the other hand has its own police services similar to Owen Sound. Alarmingly, Owen Sound spends $11.6 million more, on Salaries and Benefits than Strathroy-Caradoc, in spite of having 2,259 fewer residents to serve. Another way of looking at it is that Strathroy-Caradoc’s expense is only 54.9% of Owen Sound’s. By any measure that is a huge difference. As predicted, the three other municipalities in the Primary Comparative Group are well below Owen Sound when it comes to salaries since they contract with the OPP for their police services.

You are probably asking yourself; “Why did he include Newmarket? It looks so out of place.” Well, the next graph will make it clear why Newmarket has been included.
When we look at expenses in relation to population, it becomes a much fairer comparison. As we would expect, a city of 87,942 people would naturally spend more on Salaries and Benefits than smaller cities. However, when we spread this cost over the population of each municipality we clearly see that Owen Sound spends by far more on Salaries and Benefits per resident than any of the other municipalities in the study – including Newmarket as shown in figure 3 below.


Figure 3;  Salaries and Benefits Per Capita   source: Audited Financial Statements available on the Municipal websites

When we look at the four municipalities in the Comparative Group (red bars), we see that Strathroy-Caradoc is once again the closest to Owen Sound. Strathroy-Caradoc spends $595 per resident on Salaries and Wages while Owen Sound spends $1,183 per resident. This means that each Owen Sound resident pays $588 more per year, on Salaries and Benefits expense than they would if they lived in Strathroy-Caradoc.

To summarize this section, it is clear that Owen Sound is paying significantly more on Salaries and Benefits on a per capita basis, than all other municipalities in this comparative study. How much more? Well, if we look at the closest municipality in the Primary Comparative Group, Strathroy-Caradoc, the best case is that we are paying about $12 million more in Salaries and Benefits than we would if we had the same staffing levels as Strathroy. Owen Sound’s staffing levels are comparable to cities that manage populations of up to 50,000 residents.

I have double-checked the reported Salaries and Benefits expense on all of the audited financial statements for each municipality to confirm my findings. I invite everyone to look at those statements to see if they can find a mistake. Keep in mind that when it comes to Salaries and Benefits Expense other factors come into play, such as the number of services and the level of each service being provided and whether or not some services have been contracted out. However, this conclusion does seem to be supported by the fact that in 2020, Strathroy’s revenue from taxation was $19.0 million while Owen Sound’s was $30.4 million. This means that Strathroy collects only 62% of the taxes that Owen Sound collects.

In Part II we will compare Owen Sound records
to the records of the other municipalities on the Sunshine List


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