Special circumstance dollars fall short

The town is making inquiries as to why it received less than 10 percent of what it applied for from the province’s special circumstances fund.
The town applied for $1.6 million to help cover the costs associated with the “download” of services. But official word came Monday from the province that it would get just $110,000.
But with so many figures still unknown, the town doesn’t know how much–if any–the “download” will leave them short.
“We estimated on the information that we had back in April,” Administration and Finance manager Darryl Allan said yesterday, noting more exact figures have come in since then.
“We knew that we were not going to get $1.6 million,” he admitted, saying the special circumstances fund for the entire province topped out at $77 million.
“But if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
But there are still items the town doesn’t have exact figures for, and many policy decisions need to be addressed before definites can be calculated.
“We’re still short, we think, but the $110,000 goes some way to making that difference up,” Allan said, noting out the town probably wouldn’t know the cost of the “download” until the end of the year.
“[And] we have no idea how they came up with that amount,” he added.
Rob Savage, press secretary to Northern Development and Mines minister Chris Hodgson, said it was based on two things–financial need and the business plan each town was required to put forward as part of its application.
An intergovernmental committee, chaired by Hodgson and made up of Agriculture, Finance, Municipal Affairs, and Northern Development and Mines reps, sifted through the 517 applications.
“The cheques go out at the end of June,” Savage added.
But Fort Frances isn’t the only municipality that didn’t get everything it asked for. Morley Township filed for $35,000 but will get $5,800 while La Vallee and Chapple will get about one-third the amount they applied for.
“We applied for $33,000,” La Vallee Clerk Laurie Witherspoon said, adding they would be getting $12,374.
But with council there going through the ’98 budget with “a fine-tooth comb,” Witherspoon felt taxpayers wouldn’t see a tax increase unless there was a major change in the assessment.
“We were able to make up the shortfall,” she added.
Meanwhile, Chapple is getting $25,000 of the $75,000 it asked for.
“We’ll have to eat it up some place else,” Clerk Doris Dyson admitted, but stressed so many figures were still unknown. “I’ll know by December for sure.”
Dawson will see $16,995 (it applied for $29,000) while Lake of the Woods Township is getting $15,078. Clerk Pat Giles noted those were the same as the 1.7 percent targeted savings amounts.
“It just seems coincidental,” he added.
Kenora received $127,000 although CAO Bill Priesentanz said he expected the full $860,000 it applied for.
“Absolutely. Ours was based on cold, hard facts,” he said, charging Kenora taxpayers were having to carry the load and he didn’t know who was reaping the benefits.
He noted their five-month actuals were on track with their projected costs, adding it was basically the “Ontario Works” costs that were the stumbling block.
Dryden didn’t even bother to apply. Administrator John Callan said they looked at the amount, the number of municipalities, and the work that had to be done to access the fund and decided it wasn’t worth it.
Council there did bump up the tax revenue 2.2 percent.
“We did get funding under the [community] restructuring fund,” Callan said, explaining that was for the amalgamation.
But that came up short, too. Dryden had applied for $900,000 and received just $135,000.
Callan also agreed municipalities wouldn’t know for some time yet if the “download” was revenue neutral.
“It may be quite a while–after the end of the year until we get an audit,” he said.