Future with no grants? CPA cautions South Glengarry it’s coming

Ian Murphy and Ross Markell from Cornwall accounting firm MNP give a presentation to South Glengarry council on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. Markell believes the Ontario government is setting up municipalities to be self-sustainable. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

LANCASTER – Politicians in SD&G gambling big taxpayer-funded projects on the hope of money from senior governments may want to heed a warning from a leading SD&G accountant.

The Ontario government mandated asset management plans for municipalities on Jan. 1, 2018 and those plans have to be in place by July 2021.

Ross Markell, a Certified Public Accountant and Partner with Cornwall accounting firm MNP, told a South Glengarry council meeting this month, he believes the move is putting municipalities on a road to be self-sustainable.

“What the province is basically doing is they’re setting you up to the point where they say, you don’t need an infrastructure grant anymore. There’s going to be a time, and I don’t think it’s that far off, where the province is going to say, you have to put in a sewer system? Well, put it in. Don’t look to us. That’s coming,” Markell warned.

Markell was responding to Infrastructure GM Ewen MacDonald, who lamented that South Glengarry isn’t successful on many applications for government grants. “Having looked after our fiscal house does hurt us provincially. Perhaps hopefully that might change,” MacDonald said.

Markell said South Glengarry is in a better position financially to be self-sustainable. “It’s a big, big step for a ton of municipalities but you’re in a better position to achieve that.”

As for South Glengarry right now, it’s in a “really solid” financial position with no long term debt and reserve funds covering the equivalent of 60 per cent of its operating expenses – slightly higher than the target for Ontario municipalities. South Glengarry had a $194,000 operating surplus last year.

MNP also gave thumbs-up to South Glengarry’s practice of using additional taxes from newly built homes and businesses to offset any increase in taxation needs, largely protecting taxpayers from rate increases. “You’re basically using the (additional) assessment to fund the tax increases,” Markell said.

MNP audits the books for a number of SD&G municipalities.