Township pushing for better bang for bucks

The Township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls in investigating the possibility of changing social service administrators in an effort to reduce the annual levy it now pays to the Kenora District Services Board.
The KDSB’s funding formula is based on property assessment of member municipalities.
Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls has a small population compared to other municipalities covered by the board, but has a high property assessment due to its many valuable lakefront properties—many of which are owned by summer residents.
As a result, the township pays $650,000 a year to the KDSB, which translates into nearly 25 percent of the township’s annual budget.
“We have asked them to investigate the funding formula. To date we haven’t seen any changes,” said Mayor Jerry O’Leary. “I would like the population aspect of things brought into that.”
As a result, the township is considering transferring to the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board.
“Certainly the board has undergone research over the last couple of years, and more intensely over the last couple of months,” said Sten Lif, CAO of the KDSB.
The board’s executive committee currently is examining different funding formulas, and is expected to bring a recommendation to the board meeting in late August.
If the committee recommends a change in the funding formula, the KDSB then will vote on whether to approve it.
If the board agrees to the changes, the matter goes to municipal councils.
“Each individual municipality then will have to vote on the matter at its council,” Lif explained. “It has to be approved by a majority More from A1
of the municipalities representing a majority of the electors.”
Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls’ payment amounts to about 5.5 percent of the KDSB’s funding, but the township makes up less than one percent of the population of the district which the board serves.
Changing the funding formula to one based on population rather than property assessment would save the township a considerable sum.
“In some cases, we’re paying 10 times as much as other municipalities per person,” Mayor O’Leary said. “I love my neighbours, but I don’t like paying their bills.”
“Based on assessment, [the township] is paying the same dollar as everybody else,” Lif countered.
The situation is made worse by the fact the township does not benefit from all the services the KDSB provides.
“The DSSABs offer four basic service,” Mayor O’Leary noted. Those are land ambulance, Ontario Works, child care, and social housing.
“We only avail ourselves of one, basically [land ambulance]. But because of the funding formula, we have to pay for all four,” he said. “So I guess I’m just looking to see if there’s a better bang for the buck out there.”
When the municipalities of Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls were amalgamated in 2001, they had the option of going either with the KDSB or the Rainy River DSSAB.
“The transition team at that point made the choice to go to Kenora,” Mayor O’Leary said.
Since then, the township has asked several times for the KDSB to consider changes to its funding formula. “We’ve been asking for changes and nothing has happened,” Mayor O’Leary charged.
Board members have been “very co-operative and very sympathetic,” he added. “But putting lipstick on the pig doesn’t make it any more attractive.”
Mayor O’Leary recently sent a letter to the Ministry of Community and Social Services asking for information regarding the transfer of the township to the Rainy River DSSAB.
He has not received a response yet.
“It’s a very complicated issue,” noted Emo Reeve Russ Fortier, who chairs the local DSSAB. “They’re sitting kind of in the middle of nowhere with this huge assessment because of all the lakefront property.”
Reeve Fortier said the local board had received a letter from Mayor O’Leary regarding the situation, and that it would be willing to sit down and discuss possible options.
But he stressed the Rainy River DSSAB could do nothing unless the KDSB approved the move. “It has to happen at the Kenora end before we can do anything about it,” Reeve Fortier remarked.
Mayor O’Leary also acknowledged the Rainy River DSSAB is facing problems of its own.
With the closure of the coal-fired plant in Atikokan slated for 2007, that town’s property assessment will drop considerably, meaning the local DSSAB will have to make up for the loss of income in its levies to the other member municipalities.