It has been brought to the attention of Council that residents from Mississippi Mills are upset with the recent cost increase for Carleton Place recreation and pool services due to the termination of a cost-sharing agreement between our communities and that there is a considerable amount of confusion about how we collectively got to this point.
Since 1987, a cost-sharing partnership agreement with the Municipality of Mississippi Mills and Beckwith Township has been in place which provided Library, Pool and Recreation services to residents of Mississippi Mills and Beckwith in exchange for a payment to Carleton Place based on its annual budget for these services. Mississippi Mills terminated the Library portion of the agreement early in 2021 forcing the end of free Carleton Place Library services to Mississippi Mills residents effective September 30th, 2021.
It is important to note that in 2020, Carleton Place picked up the extra expenses incurred to operate recreation and pool services due to COVID-19, as revenue in 2020 was significantly impacted by facility closures and reduced capacity limits imposed by the Provincial government. Operating costs set out in the 2020 budget were determined in 2019, prior to the knowledge of the COVID pandemic and its impacts on the operation of these services. As the invoicing to Mississippi Mills and Beckwith for cost-shared services is based on annual budgets (which are not reconciled to the parties based on actual revenues/expenses that occur throughout the year), any year-end overages related to recreation and pool services are covered by the Town of Carleton Place. Carleton Place was fortunate in 2020 to receive Provincial Covid-19 funding which helped to offset some of the actual loss of revenues and increased expenditure costs experienced in 2020 due to COVID and per the agreement, Carleton Place did not request any additional contribution for 2020 from Mississippi Mills or Beckwith.
When preparing the Town’s 2021 budget, Carleton Place took a conservative approach assuming a similar year to 2020 regarding COVID implications. This meant that the requested budgetary impact to both Mississippi Mills and Beckwith increased significantly over the amount requested in 2020 for these services. The Town invoiced Mississippi Mills based on the Town’s 2021 approved budget for these services in the amount of $182,833.80. Mississippi Mills declined to pay in accordance with the Town’s budget, instead offering payment in the amount of $137,177.80. As a result of Mississippi Mills’ decision to not pay in accordance with the Cost Sharing Agreement, Carleton Place Council made the decision to terminate the agreement with Mississippi Mills for pool and recreation services. Council felt it was unacceptable to Carleton Place residents to have to pay more than their fair share by having to pick up the outstanding amount invoiced to, but not paid by, Mississippi Mills.
Six (6) months’ notice of termination was provided on October 22nd, 2021, in order to give Mississippi Mills time to notify its residents. However, Mississippi Mills notified our Chief Administrative Officer Diane Smithson on December 7th, 2021, that they had decided to terminate the agreement over three (3) months early, effective December 31st, 2021.
We recognize how important recreation and pool services are to a community, however, the significant cost associated with operating these assets cannot be ignored. The Town of Carleton Place does its best to minimize the cost of recreation (i.e. arena ice rentals, hall rentals, ball diamond rentals, etc.) and pool services to all users and does not use these services to generate a profit. Carleton Place and Beckwith residents subsidize recreation and pool services within Carleton Place through their tax dollars and therefore, residents from these two (2) communities are charged a lower user fee when they use them. It is the Town’s policy that residents from any municipality that does not contribute through their tax dollars to the overall cost of operating recreation and pool services, which now includes Mississippi Mills effective January 1st, 2022, are required to pay a higher user fee when they use these services.
Historically, this agreement worked well for all communities involved and the resulting benefits of working together were the offering of quality services at an affordable rate. Unfortunately, Carleton Place cannot afford to subsidize providing these services to other communities at the expense of our own taxpayers. Regrettably, we recognize that there will be many residents impacted by this decision, but we have an obligation to look out for the best interests of the residents of Carleton Place.
Doug Black, Mayor of the Town of Carleton Place