CK learns more about local impact of provincial cuts

Municipality of Chatham-Kent Civic Centre. March 26, 2018. Photo by Sarah Cowan Blackburn News Chatham-Kent).

Chatham-Kent is getting a better look at what impact Ontario’s 2019-2020 budget will have on municipal services.

A report coming to council Monday night details some the funding cuts that will hit municipal programs. However, the report makes it clear that the numbers listed are just updates and more information is needed before any final conclusions are made.

“Administration has received some funding letters from the province since the release of their budget,” states the report. “Divisions are currently gathering more information from various ministries to better understand the impact. Much of the information released to date is vague, incomplete or only initial partial information. No conclusions can be made at this time as to the entire fiscal impact to Chatham-Kent for 2019 or for the 2020 Budget.”

The Provincial Gas Tax Program is facing a large setback. According to the report, the province has canceled the proposed plan to double the Provincial Gas Tax for municipalities from 2 cents per litre to 4 cents. The Ministry of Transportation website describes the program as “a long-term source of transit funding that municipalities can count on” and a way to provide predictable and stable transit funding.

“This was first proposed by the previous government, but more interestingly was confirmed as a priority to maintain by the current government during their election campaign. There had been discussions on broadening its use beyond transit issues. However, following review of their various provincial funding programs, the doubling of the gas tax was eliminated,” the report reads.

For 2019 Chatham-Kent will, however, be receiving $3.6 million one time transit funding but according to the report, the loss of the gas tax equals a cut of about $1 million to overall transit funding.

The province also canceled a proposed $100 million one time Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund application based grant for 2019. The report states that, had the grant continued, Chatham-Kent likely would have received $2 million one time funding.

Another large cut is to the conservation authority’s flood management funding across Ontario.

“As conservation authorities are a requisitioning body to the municipality, the $3.7 million cuts to the Hazard Program, which protects life and property from natural hazards such as flooding, may impact future requisition requests.”

The impact this cut will have locally is unknown at the time.

Initial estimates show local child care funding taking a big cut of around $731,000 due to increases in cost sharing of previously 100 per cent provincially funded programs.

For land ambulances, the report states that CK has been notified that the province will be freezing funding at the 2018/19 levels. This means the extra 12 hours of daily EMS service that was approved last summer, as well as any 2019 budget additions for EMS services including three new powerlifts, will be solely the responsibility of Chatham-Kent. This comes to the tune of about $600,000 in 2019, which may be covered by the Land Ambulances General Reserve. For 2020, if the freeze remains, it will mean around a 0.65 per cent tax increase on the base budget. However, the report notes that the provincial budget hints at some streamlining and improvements which would mean a potential for savings.

Changes to the cost-sharing arrangement with municipal health units, as well as the proposed creation of 10 Regional Public Health Entities, which have been highly publicized, will result in an up to $900,000 short term impact to Chatham-Kent. The report states that is impossible to estimate the long term fiscal impact or the impact on service levels that this will have.

To date, there has been no announcement about the funding for the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program funded by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. The province is indicating however that it will 100 per cent fund $600,00 over the next year for a new comprehensive, publicly-funded dental care program for low-income seniors to be delivered by Public Health Units, Community Health Centres and Aboriginal Access Health Centres.

Funding has also been cut for certain Ontario Works programs including the Addictions Service Pilot Program. The funding cut for this program results in a loss of about $100,000 for 2019. A taxable child benefit program has also been cut, resulting in $400,000 less for clients.

The report concludes that as it stands right now, the budgets cuts will have a negative impact on Chatham-Kent however, administrative staff will continue to monitor additional developments.  Any 2019 impacts to budgets will be handled by reserve funding or by the corporate variance reports. The report also said it’s too early to predict what, if any, jobs and resources will no longer be needed.