Rural Lambton municipalities face another year of funding cuts

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It’s that time of the year again. Rural municipalities are once again facing funding cuts from the provincial government.

The Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund grants, which have been cut by the province for the past four years in rural Ontario, are once again being reduced.

Enniskillen Township Mayor Kevin Marriott says this year his municipality will lose $89,300 in funding – about 15 per cent of what the province contributed to his municipality last year.

While the decrease isn’t as much money as last year, Marriott says the cumulative effect of the cuts is telling. In 2012, when the province first began reducing the OMPF grant, Enniskillen received $1.07 million each year. In 2017, the municipality will receive $506,000.

While Enniskillen has one of the highest percentage cuts, Brooke-Alvinston will lose the most money this year – $128,000.

Warwick township will also lose a large amount – $103,200. St. Clair will receive $78,900 and Dawn-Euphemia another $94,400.

The cuts to rural Central Lambton are offset by increases in urban centers. Plympton-Wyoming is the big winner in 2017,  receiving an addition $107,000 in funding. Petrolia will get $80,4000 more this year and Sarnia an extra $90,500, Lambton Shores $18,300, Oil Springs $9,500 and Point Edward an extra $400.

John Innes, Lambton’s general manager of finance, says overall the level of OMPF funding hasn’t changed in the county, but the money the province calls transitional – which has gone to rural communities – is shrinking while the core grants increase.

Innes adds there is a new component to the grant structure which gives more money to rural municipalities with more than 70 per cent farmland. It’s not clear if Central Lambton received some of that money.

Enniskillen’s mayor has been a vocal opponent of the funding reductions to rural municipalities. Marriott says he understands the province will continue to cut funding for a couple of years yet. “We can continue to expect cuts for the next couple of years.”

Marriott adds the latest cuts will have far more impact on his residents taxes than the double-digit increases in land values announced in October. Marriott says most farmers knew the value of land was rising and they also understand Enniskillen is not about to cash in on that.

“I’ve been telling my ratepayers for years that we adjust our mill rate when land values go up,” he says. “We never take more than we need over the previous year’s tax bill.”

Marriott plans to raise the issue of decreasing funding when he speaks to the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance in a video conference call Nov. 23.

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