Municipal Monitor Q1 2017 - Page 11

Cover Story

In a report released in February , AMCTO tackles a key issue that has plagued local governments in Ontario for years . The report , titled Bearing the Burden : An Overview of Municipal Reporting to the Province , attempts to capture how much municipal time , resources and effort are put toward the creation and maintenance of various mandatory provincial reports .

“ We ’ ve heard for years from those working in the sector that it ’ s a problem ,” said Rick Johal , AMCTO ’ s director of member and sector relations . “ Many state that they don ’ t know where the reports go and what value they hold , and they are concerned that reporting takes them away from the core services they have to deliver .”
In its 2016 pre-budget submission to the Ontario government , AMCTO articulated the so-called reporting burden as a key policy priority for the coming year .
Although the general consensus was that provincial reporting was a
significant financial and productivity drain on its members , AMCTO realized that further research was needed to better understand and articulate the issue .
In May 2016 , the association hired policy researcher Devan Lobo to explore the topic . Lobo carried out in-depth consultations with 29 local government professionals representing six municipalities of varying sizes . These qualitative data were supplemented by a sector-wide survey which received over 300 responses . Respondents represented a wide crosssegment of Ontario ’ s municipal sector , including a variety of population sizes , tiers , years of employment in the sector , and provincial regions .
The research concluded in September 2015 . The draft report was shared with the provincial government to corroborate data and obtain initial feedback .
One thing was abundantly clear . The majority of municipal professionals surveyed believed reporting
is an important component of intergovernmental relations ; however , the cumulative reporting process is onerous and excessive .
“ Very few complained about the value or need to do reporting , they just struggle in seeing the utility of it ,” explained Johal . “ Part of the problem is that reporting is done pretty much ad hoc between different ministries and branches within government and data submitted often goes into what many believe is a ‘ reporting black hole ’.”
The types of reports vary depending on the city , with upper-tier regional governments preparing the bulk of the reports on social and human services . Examples of lower-tier municipal reports include financial matters , water and wastewater , and cemeteries . Municipalities of all sizes must complete a financial information return .
Part of the problem is that a master list of the reports municipalities must produce for the province has never been created . Since there is no coordinated system to organize the
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