Petrolia may not be facing big provincial funding cuts now, but Mayor John McCharles is worried about the future.
The provincial government recently released the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund grants and rural municipalities faced huge cuts. Some, such as Brooke-Alvinston, Dawn-Euphemia and Enniskillen Township, face cuts, which if left unchecked would increase taxes between 10 and 20 percent.
Petrolia actually received a small amount more this year, but McCharles was recently on hand for a conference call with Ministry of Finance staff at the Lambton County building to find out the reasoning behind the reduction.
McCharles says the fund which was originally to help rural municipalities deal with the cost of policing and changes to tax policy which shifted farm tax grants to the lower tier is being whittled away. And he says the province is using “smoke and mirrors” instead of explaining their reasoning behind the cuts.
McCharles says the method of funding “goes against rural Ontario.”
And he says while Petrolia received a little more this year, it likely won’t be spared long. “Next year, we’re probably in for a hit as well,” says the mayor adding the province plans to cut another $50 million from the fund. “At the end of the day, this grant system will disappear totally and that’s a handicap to rural municipalities.”
Petrolia CAO Manny Baron says if the fund disappears, it could spell big budget difficulties in town. Currently, Petrolia receives $872,000 from the partnership fund. To replace it would mean a 24 percent tax increase or drastic cuts.