Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott says the province is shifting the wealth from rural muncipalities to urban centers.
Enniskillen and Dawn-Euphemia recently heard their Ontario Municipal Partner Fund grant – the main grant given to municipalities by the province – has been cut by nearly 15 percent. Dawn-Euphemia will lose $168,000 and Enniskillen’s grant was cut by $142,000.
The province is in the process of reducing the funding it gives municipalities through OMPF. It took $50 million out of the budget in 2013 and another $50 million in 2014 as part of the effort to reduce the provincial deficit. So far, rural municipalities seem to be taking the hit.
In Dawn-Euphemia, Mayor Bill Bilton says the township would have to raise taxes eight percent to cover the shortfall and that’s before looking at any other increases such as hydro rates and insurance premiums.
And reducing the township by that much “then we’re cutting services,” he says.
The situation is the same in Enniskillen. Marriott believes the township would have to raise taxes six percent just to cover the loss. But that, he says, is not likely to happen.” I don’t think the stomach out there to raise taxes,” he says noting the township had to deal with a $50,000 last year.
“We’re starting out …doing a budget for 2014 losing that much money from the province really puts you in a precarious situation.”
The salt in the wound is that large area municipalities are either getting the same amount of money or are seeing their grants increase. Windsor will receive $3 million more, Sarnia gets an extra $1 million. Petrolia’s grant will stay the same.
In its letter to the municipalities outlining the cuts, the province points out that Lambton County has also received an addition $16 million in provincial money to offset the cost of ambulance and social services. But both mayors say the municipalities cannot use any of that money to pay for roads or policing.
“It’s obvious that the province has the intention to raise urban grants at the expense of rural,” says Marriott. “The province is shifting the wealth from the rural to the urban.
“This almost feels like(Premier Kathleen) Wynne being like a teacher with a big stick, slapping you on the wrist saying ‘that’s what you get for not voting Liberal.’”