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Friday, May 24, 2019

Provincial Cuts Create Budget Challenges For Grey County

Grey County | by Matt Hermiz  

Report details financial impacts for county with funding changes it knows about to date.

Funding cuts by the Doug Ford provincial government will result in a shortfall of more than $1.1-million in Grey County's 2019 budget.

And Grey County Warden Selwyn Hicks says that figure is expected to rise north of $3-million in 2020.

According to a report by Grey County Director of Corporate Services Kevin Weppler presented to county councillors at yesterday's committee of the whole meeting, the county is facing significant in-year and future budget impacts as a result of the 2019 Provincial Budget.

The provincial cuts are creating county budget challenges in a number of areas, including: public health, employment services, child care, housing and homelessness, long term care and paramedic services.

Hicks says the county is going to have to consider several options to absorb the costs being downloaded from the province, such as spending from reserves, cutting services or raising taxes.

"We will have to make some tough decisions about what are the core things we are mandated to do," Hicks warns. "There are many things the public has come to expect regarding service level and that will probably change. It's not going to be business as usual for the county."

Weppler's report explains changes in child care funding will cost Grey County an additional $562,500 this year. That will rise to $750,000 in 2020.

The county will now be required to cost-share a number of child care programs previously fully covered by the province including wage enhancement expansion plan funding.

County-run Housing and Homelessness programs will cost over $560,800 more this year, and $1.2-million in 2020.

The county expects changes to the provincial funding model for public health to have a $175,600 impact on its books in 2019, and that will rise to $797,300 in 2020.

A number of reforms are also ongoing to Ontario Works and Employment Services programs including the end of the Transition Child Benefit and the Addictions Services Initiative, but Weppler's report says the financial impact to Grey County has yet to be determined.

It notes Ontario Works benefit costs had been funded 100 per cent by the province, and changes based on service targets may result in more county expenses.

Hicks adds the other big unknown is what's going to happen with long-term care funding, as there has been no new information yet from the province.

Grey County did receive a one-time, $725,000 payment in March for Service Modernization to offset some of the budget impact this year, Weppler's report notes. The funds are to support small and rural municipalities' efforts to become efficient and reduce expenditure growth long-term.
 

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