The Ducharme family is pretty busy these days. Not only are they installing thousands of lights at just the correct location in the four acre patch of property that they decorate for Christmas each year, there is also the matter of preparing the Singing Trees.
“We store about 80% of the lights each year and put them up in new locations to keep the display new,”said Greg Ducharme early this week, “and tee Singing Trees are new for us this year. The lights are hooked in to a computer so they respond to the music that is played through the system. It really looks like the trees are singing when you see it in action.”
Ducharme is waiting for the final piece of equipment to come in from Kansas City to hook up four trees, and the singing trees will be the centrepiece of the display at Riverhill farms this Christmas season. The display will be complete and ready for the opening evening, which coincides with the Ompah-Plevna Santa Clause Parade.
Riverhill farms is located on Struthadam Road, which is off River Road. Riverr Road runs between Ardoch Road (near Ardoch) and 509 (at Ompah) in North Frontenac Township.
For the past four years, Ducharme’s past time of putting up Christmas lights, which started in 2008 with the birth of his grand-daughter, has been a public event that is a highlight of the Christmas season in the region.
“We kept adding to it and adding to it as each year progressed, more and more people were coming in the driveway. We tried opening it to the public for the first time four years ago and it has been very successful,” he said.
The lights are turned on each evening between November 25 and New Years, and the Ducharmes keep then lights on until 9pm on weeknights and 10pm on weekends.
For three Saturday evenings during that time (December 2, 9, and 16) between 5pm and 8pm there will be wagon rides, hot chocolate, coffee, donuts, and pancakes and sausage or bacon and home-made maple syrup available as well.
Bus trips for 30 passengers or more can be arranged by calling Greg at 613-282-3276. Please provide one week’s notice.
The entire enterprise is about sharing the Ducharme families’ passion for Christmas lights that bring joy to the cold, dark fall evenings.
“I’ve lived a pretty blessed life,” said Ducharme, “and this is my way to give back some joy and Christmas spirit.”
The Riverhill Christmas Lights Show is free to view. The only charge is for refreshments on the three special Saturday Nights. There is a jar available for donations to help cover costs.
Budget article update - Wednesday 6:00 pm
(At their meeting today, Frontenac County Council considered proposals which would have brought their 2018 budget levy down by up to $150,000, but in the end only managed to make the most superficial of cuts to the document.
But pity the poor foster kids!
A 6,000 expenditure to support a scholarship program for foster children in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, was cut from the budget. The impact of the cut was to lower the budget levy by 0.06%. The only other change to the budget that was made by council was to remove another $6,400 from taxation by cutting almost half of the budget for a parking lot restoration project at the county offiuce/Fairmount Home complex.
All in the levy to ratepayers has been reduced from $9.775 million to $9.763 million, a decrease of a little over a tenth of one per cent. The net increase in the levy to ratepayers has been set a 4.4%.
The other potential changes that would have had a greater impact did not have enough support from Council to come to fruition.
A motion to cut the $55,061 contribution to the University Hospital Foundation of Kingston, which was made by North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins, did not receive a seconder.
The only major dispute of the morning came when Warden Ron Vandewal proposed that the ambulance that is stationed on Wolfe Island could be replaced with a cheaper option using a single paramedic and a first response vehicle. The transport ambulance would come from Kingston off the soon to be upgraded ferry service. This would save about $100,000 per year, and a portion of those savings would go to Frontenac County ratepayers.
Chief of Paramedic Services Paiul Charbonneau said that the alternative service would be a good fit for Wolfe Islands and would serve the residents as well as the traditional ambulance that has been phased in.
That did not sit well with Frontenac Islands Mayor Dennis Doyle however.
“Just like we voted to support the K&P Trail and Economic Development, I would ask that the county support the residents of Wolfe Island by completing the phase-in of ambulance service that this council started in 2015.”
Council stood with Doyle.
The draft 2018 budget thus remained intact, with the only losers from today’s process being part of a parking lot and a foster child who will not get a scholarship.
Overall spending for Frontenac County, which stood at $41.3 milliom in the draft budget, remains at $41.3 million. The $26,000 decrease in total expenditures (0.06%) falls within the rounding error.
The following was published before the meeting on Wednesday morning, and is based on the content of the draft budget, which as explained above, has remained fundamentally intact in its final incarnation
Perhaps Kelly Pender sky dives on the weekends, but in his working life the Frontenac County Chief Administrative Officer is averse to risk and drama. As far as the annual Frontenac County budget is concerned, he has been preaching from the gospel of predictable, controlled budget increases over time.
This has taken a lot of the drama out of the annual Frontenac County budget process, which was never a riveting spectacle to witness even before Pender took the helm.
This year Frontenac County Council has moved away from the very general; approving the parameters of the budget in conceptual terms in September, to the very specific; looking at individual projects as add-ons to the budget in late October.
This week they received, for the first and likely the last time, a draft budget document. It contains few surprises.
The number that matters in 2018 will be $9,775,000, that’s how much will be levied to the four Frontenac Townships if Council accepts the budget as presented Wednesday morning (This article will be updated on Frontenacnews.ca at that time) The townships will then collect that money from Frontenac County properties.
This projected levy is over $400,000 higher than it was in 2017, an increase of 4.5%.
Most of that increase came about as the result of previous decisions by this Council.
They indicated at their meeting in September that they would like to see an operating budget, including service enhancements, come in at under 1.5%, the figure for the increase in the consumer price index (CPI) for the year as calculated in late August.
Treasurer Susan Brandt, working her first budget as the lead official (she was the Deputy Treasurer until replacing the retired Marion Vanbruinessen earlier this year) followed last year’s practice and added 0.6% to that target, based on figures for the projected increase in property assessment that was provided by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.
By keeping the operating budget increase to 1.1% ($104,117), adding 0.89% ($83,550) for new projects, and using $88,000 from reserve funds, the result was a 2% increase. This increase includes a new overnight Personal Support Worker shift at Fairmount Home and a new Human Resources position, as well as $35,000 for the Economic Development Department.
Added to the 2% increase from this year’s process are increases resulting from commitments made earlier in the mandate of this council. The largest of those is 1.78% ($166,7782) for two service enhancements of the Frontenac Paramedic Services, which are being phased in. One is on Wolfe Island, which is now fully funded, and the other is the second of three increases for a new overnight ambulance in Kingston. Another 0.65% ($60,787) is devoted to increase the reserve fund for capital projects, which has been in place for three years now and will continue to effect future budgets.
All together, the increase rounds off to just about 4.5%
Because of the incremental process and the weight of prior commitments, there is little to be decided when the entire package is presented this week. All of the spending increases have been approved in principle at previous meetings, but Council is not bound by those prior decisions.
Based on the discussions that took place earlier, the only item that is at all likely to re-surface is the commitment to provide $55,000 each year for ten year to the University Hospital Foundation of Kingston. That was approved in a vote of 6-3 and may come up for a final vote before the budget is signed, sealed and delivered.
Whether approved with or without amendments, the enacting bylaw for the budget will not be before Council until their meeting on December 20th.
(Frontenac County’s overall spending budget for 2018 will be $41.3 million, up 3% ($1.2 million) from 2017. Most of the money required to deliver Frontenac County Services is provided by the Province of Ontario and the City of Kingston, which provide the lion’s share of funding for the two largest County operations (Fairmount Home and Frontenac Paramedic Services)
Readers who get their news from sources other than this one and who have a keen eye for numbers, may notice that we are reporting an increase of 4.5% in the Frontenac County budget, while official releases from the County itself and reports in other papers will peg the increase at 3.9%.
Are we looking at the same documents?
Yes, we are. The numbers we use in the Frontenac News are provided to us by the Frontenac County treasury department and they are the same numbers members of Council see and anyone from the public can see as well by going to the frontenaccounty.ca website and navigating to the council agenda directory.
The difference is one of interpretation. It is our policy to base our budget reporting on the amount of money that will be collected from ratepayers through taxation. This is reported in budgets under the heading Tax Levy. In 2018 that levy (subject to approval this week) is $9,775 million dollars, up from $9.35 million in 2017, a 4.5% increase
There is no disagreement between the News and Frontenac County on that point.
But the Frontenac County treasury department deducted $56,000 from their total, which was enough to bring the increase below 4%.
They did not invent that $56,000. $56,000 is the estimated increase in revenue resulting from property assessment growth in Frontenac County this year
While it is true that assessment growth means there is more collective wealth to tax, that has nothing to do with the budget itself.
In the case of Frontenac County, the money they requisition is charged to the townships, not the ratepayers directly. When the townships complete their own budgets, they add in the county levy and the education levy and come up with a total increase, which is then divided out among taxpayers on the basis of the assessed value of each property.
The whole matter can be very complicated, and for this reason we stay away from it and base our reporting on the bottom line in the budget documents.
As we have said in the past, for local politicians who approve county and township budgets we ask only that they do their best to ensure that the services we pay for are delivered effectively, and that increases in spending are justified based on maintaining service levels or providing new services that are of general benefit to us all.
The question we ask of Frontenac County Council members is the following; are we getting value for the $9,775,000 that we are going to pay in 2018?
There will, after all, be an election before the next county budget is approved.
Ron Higgins sees himself as a kind of hub in the wheel that is rolling towards a major change in the economic and social reality in North Frontenac Township over the next ten years. He is neither and investor nor a proponent for any of the series of projects that are in various stages of development, but he has been at the centre of the effort to put groups and individuals interested in starting new ventures with the governmental and non-governmental agencies that can help make the ventures come to fruition.
Higgins brought the projects together in one package at a special meeting of Council almost two weeks ago. He was seeking Council’s support in principle in order to advance one of the projects, a power generation proposal, which is still in the conceptual stages, but the meeting provided an opportunity to bring forward two other initiative that are at a more advanced stage, even though they do not require council action.
In an interview with the News last Friday (November 19) Higgins took the opportunity to clarify where all of the threads of the complicated set of initiatives are located, both physically and in terms of time frame.
The proposal for a wellness centre, wood shop and apiary is the first that will get underway. It has a location that has already been purchased. Planning is underway now for a renovation to the former Tooley house and 36 acre property which has road frontage in Plevna on Road 506. The property has commercial-residential zoning and starting up the new ventures will not require any planning applications. However renovations to the 2,275 square foot house on the property to create an interim home for the wellness centre will require a building permit, which has not been acquired as of yet. The proposal that was presented to council said that there is potential for the centre to offer the following services: massage, including Reiki, Shiatsu, accupressure and other types, chiropractic services, physiotherapy, First Nations healing or crystal/herbal healing, and primary care services offered by three medical doctors, and the services of a locally based Nurse Practitioner and midwife.
There is a large garage/worskhop on the property, and the plan is to build a canoe this winter to “show the community the quality of canoes that can be made here in North Frontenac. Publicity would be enhanced by raffling off the canoe,” according to the report on the “One Small Town Implementation Plan that Higgins submitted to Council on November 3.
The other project slated to get underway in the near term on the Tooley property is an apiary. All of the projects will be taken on by a co-operative called C&T North Frontenac (C&T stand for Contribute and Thrive). Part of the operating mandate of the co-op is that members who contribute 3 hours per week to one of the projects will receive a share of the benefits. In the case of the canoe factory, if one develops, that would amount to a free canoe.
David Craig, one of the main proponents of the Talking Trees project, which will be discussed below. According to Ron Higgins Craig will be involved in the renovation project in Plevna and will be living and working in North Frontenac this winter. He has been residing near Perth until now.
The second initiative covered in the plan is the Talking Trees Earth Ship project, which has been the subject of articles in the Frontenac News as early as last spring. In its current incarnation, the project envisions constructing 89 Earth Ships, homes built from used tires and concrete, built into the land to make them self sufficient in terms of electrical power and heat/cooling. The land for this project has not been purchased but there are un-comfirmed reports that a property that is suitable for the project has been located to the east of Ompah towards Snow Road, close to Road 509.
Higgins said that this project will require planning approvals from Frontenac County, likely a Plan of Condominium will need to be prepared and approved before lots can be created and construction of the pod based community can get underway.
“I don’t think the process will create the same amount of controversy among neighbours as a proposal to create 20 or more waterfront lots would,” Higgins said, comparing the Talking Trees initiative with the Ardoch Lake Plan of subdivision, a project in North Frontenac that is being opposed by neighbouring property owners. In the plan that was presented to Council, construction on the Talking Trees project is slated to begin in late 2018, although Higgins said he does understand that may be an overly optimistic given the land has not been purchased and planning processes in Frontenac County tend to be slow.
The longest term plan is the proposal for electrical generation and aquaculture projects, which will require some land that includes waterfront because the generating process requires water to be drawn from a water source, processed and then returned to the water source. A second factor about site selection for this project is proximity to the electrical grid to feed power into the hydro system. The aquaculture project will be energy intensive and will require the electrical generation to help it remain competitive in the market place. The municipality will need to be the owners of the power project, but Higgins said that Langenburg, the company that has expressed interest in building the project, is prepared to cover all the costs in exchange for the profits that will be generated, making North Frontenac a power producer in name only.
There is no time frame set out for this part of the One Small Town initiative.
Harry and Fim Andringa have made their mark in the town of Flinton ever since they moved to the community 25 years ago. They have been good neighbours and keen volunteers, and have made many friends.
Harry, who had recently retired from the Toronto Transit Commission when the Andringas moved to Flinton, drove for both Land O’Lakes Community Services (Meals of Wheels) and Friends of Bon Echo (captaining the Mugwump ferry) among other volunteer commitments. Harry has also been involved with local Legions and schools more recently by recounting his experiences in WW2 as a child in the Netherlands.
“When we moved to Flinton we knew no one. We found the community by looking around for a small town where we could retire and enjoy life. And we found it,” he said, when interviewed at his home earlier this week.
A few years after they had retired, Harry realized that he was not feeling well, and that he hadn’t been feeling well for many years. He went for tests and they did tests and found nothing. Eventually doctors realized that Harry was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and had been for most of his life. He lived through WW2 in the Netherlands as a young child and those experiences had remained bottled up in him for over 60 years. After 11 months of therapy he felt better and was able to begin sharing his story, which he did through presentations at Legions and at local high schools and Senior’s homes for a number of years.
“I think it is important for people to know what happened, especially now when there are holocaust deniers around. There are even some in Germany now, so I wanted to do my part,” he said.
A couple of years ago Fim began having health problems and more recently Harry has also been struggling physically. The strain of visiting groups in person has become too great.
When Ken Hook heard that Harry was getting older and frailer, he is now 85, he recalled how much of an impact that a presentation Harry had on the participants at a meeting of the Cloyne and District Historical Society a number of years ago. He thought it was important to get Harry’s story on video. A year ago, he conducted a series of interviews with Harry and then applied for a Canada 150 grant to fund the completion of the video. He did not get one, but decided to self fund the project.
“I’ve done a lot of corporate and other videos and people are always a bit shy or wary, and we need to do two or three takes. But Harry wasn’t like that. He didn’t have any notes at all. He knew his story and could tell it off the top of his head.”
Obtaining video clips to round out the story was a more difficult process for Hook, but he did have help from the National Film Board, which allowed him to use newsreel footage. Finding the write footage took many hours, however. When the video was done, edited down to 36 minutes, an opening was arranged at the Northbrook Lion’s Hall on October 25.
To Harry and Ken’s surprise, the hall was filled to the brim, standing room only, for the viewing.
The film itself is straight forward. Harry speaks, there are images and voice overs for context, and his story unfolds.
And what a grim, cautionary tale it is.
Harry was a young boy when the war started, living in a small town north of Amsterdam. It took only four days for the German army to over-run the Dutch in 1940. Harry was 9 at the time. In the film he recalled the night when the German army arrived in his town. He thought it was a thunderstorm but his father said it was a war.
“I had never even heard the word war. I asked my father what it was, and he said ‘you’ll find out’. Did I ever.”
In “Harry’s Story” which is available for free viewing on Youtube and can be easily accessed at Harrysstory.ca, Harry talks about the way life immediately changed under German occupation. The school in his village was taken over and classes were held outside. German was taught and soldiers would come in to the schools and make sure the students were learning the language. Prisoners of war, from as far away as Mongolia, were brought in as slave labour for the army.
Harry talked about seeing the German soldiers eating lunch in their truck, “with thermoses of hot coffee and cheese sandwiches, with not a care in the world” while the slave labourers were out in the cold, wearing rags, with soaked burlap on their feet in place of shoes, sharing a frozen beetroot they found in a ditch by the side of the road “just to have something in their stomach.”
The Nazi regime also targeted Dutch Jews for extermination, and because of the efficiency of Dutch birth and citizenship records they had great success in finding Dutch Jews. As the documentary points out, only 30,000 of the 140,000 Dutch Jews survived the war.
Harry’s uncle Cor was involved in the effort to save as many Jews as possible from the fate they faced if captured by the Nazi’s. He coordinated efforts in the region, often using bicycle power by night to ferry individuals and families to safety.
Harry talks in the film about a mother and daughter, Esther and Sonya, who were sheltered in his home.
He talks in particular about one day when a soldier arrived in his house without any warning, so quickly that Sonya, who was sitting in the kitchen, was unable to scurry under the large tablecloth that covered the kitchen table, which she normally did when there was any warning they were coming.
The soldier asked Harry’s mother about the children, and she said they were her children.
“‘What about her’ he said pointing right at Sonya. He picked her right out, and my mother said she was her sisters child who was staying with us for the day. He laughed, and looked at us as if he was insulted by our attempts to fool him, and then he left” Harry recalled, his memory as clear 75 years later as if the event had just taken place.
They thought they were done for, and waited for the truck to come and load them up “never to be seen or heard from again,” which was what had happened to the Mayor of the town earlier, but by late afternoon nothing had happened and Harry said to his mother “I think we are in the clear”.
They never found out why the soldier never turned them in. Harry’s mother said maybe the soldier had a daughter who was about 2 or 3 years old back home in Germany.
“That’s the only explanation we could come up with.”
In the film there are some stories that are more harrowing than this one.
Harry also remembers the bitter cold winter of 1944, which became known as the Hunger Winter or Dutch Famine, when the German’s cut off all food and fuel shipments to the western provinces, where 4.5 million Dutch lived.
Harry talks about ripping door trims for wood, stealing trees, and eating tulip bulbs and nettles.
Canadian troops liberated the Netherlands after the D-Day invasion, a fact that certainly played into Harry’s decision to emigrate to Canada in 1957.
It pleases him to point out how Canadian WW2 veterans are received when they go back to Holland. By a strange coincidence, the last surviving D-Day veteran in our readership area (as far as we know) is Gordon Wood of Flinton, and over the years since Harry and Fim Andriga have been living in Flinton they have formed a bond from being on two sides of a dark chapter of Dutch and Canadian history.
Harry met his wife, Fim, soon after he arrived in Canada in 1957. She is from the Netherlands as well and they were married on Thanksgiving Day in 1959 and raised a family in Toronto before moving to Flinton, where they live with their son.
Fim is younger than Harry, and she was born during the war, and although she was very young she has her own vivid of the war.
When I contacted Harry for a few details early this week, Fim came on the line afterwards.
Her concern, after what both she and Harry had experienced when they were very young, is with the refugees that have been taken in by Canada over the last few years.
“I was 5 when the war was over, and I have memories that no person should have,” she said.
“Canada is bringing in a lot of refugees, and they are coming from war torn countries that are as bad or worse as what we came from. Some of these children are going to have the same kind of memories. These memories that are so intrusive, and Canada should know that these people need emotional and mental help when they come here. We don’t need to coddle the refugees, we weren’t coddled when we came here, but they have seen things and those things don’t disappear. I know that for myself, they come back instantly and without any warning.”
When Harry’s Story was screened in Northbrook, the tears were flowing in the audience in response to the dignified account of horrendous events, as Harry still finds it hard to believe that people could act as the Nazis did in his village and his country.
Afterwards, Harry was surprised and a bit overwhelmed by the response.
“I expected about a dozen people would show up, not a full house like this,” he said.
The website Harrysstory.ca includes information about the film, an embedded Youtube link to the full 36 minute video and a link to the trailer. It also includes out-takes, footage that was not included in the film for time reasons but add much to the story. More outtakes will be added over time as well.
Harry’s story is also being screened in Napanee on Saturday, November 25th at 2pm at the Lennox and Addington County Museum and Archives.
Tom Power has appeared at the Crossings Pub in Sharbot Lake as a member of the Dardanelles, an energetic young Newfoundland band that, among other things, is devoted to keeping traditional Newfoundland music fresh and modern.
One thing has led to another for Power, and last year he took on a high profile radio job as the host of the daily culture show Q, on CBC Radio 1. The Dardanelles went on hiatus after, although there are rumblings of a limited return, and Power found himself talking more on the radio and playing less music than he normally does.
He then took to sitting in with Toronto based bluegrass/old timey fiddler John Showman who has a standing gig at Queen Street’s Cameron House on Mondays. It turns out Showman has a background playing Irish Fiddle tunes from his days in Montreal, and enjoyed paying with Power, who provides a driving beat on guitar and foot stomp that gels well with Showman’s inventive and tuneful fiddle playing.
The duo has played around Toronto a bit as well as at the Cameron House, and when they wanted to book a show on the road it was easy enough to arrange by calling Frank and Sandra White in Sharbot Lake, who were more than willing to provide the venue.
Some of the crowd at the Crossings on Saturday Night were CBC fans looking so to see the face behind the radio voice, and others were John Showman fans, since he has played locally with a number of alt-country combos, including a show a few years back at Blue Skies Music Festival with New Country Rehab.
The show last Saturday was an excellent opportunity to hear the range and facility of John Showman. Power took the opportunity to sing two songs, a rarity for him. One was Ron Hynes’ No change in the Weather and the other a traditional Newfoundland tune he learned from his grandmother. He also provided support for Showman, who played tunes from the east coast as well as Appalachian and bluegrass tunes.
Showman not only demonstrated his great facility to inhabit tunes from different cultures, he has the inventiveness to make them his own. Power pushed the music on, sometimes adding pace and sometimes just keeping the music grounded, allowing Showman to stray into new territory within some of the old tunes and new tunes that sounded like they were from a bygone era.
All in all it was a dynamic show.
There are no shows currently scheduled at the Crossings Pub, but shows will be announced in the coming weeks. Look to their site sharbotlakeinn.com for details.
For years I attended, and covered, Remembrance Day events. I always feel the emotions, the weight of loss, but never thought much about the political implications of the ceremonies. To me, we paid homage to the old soldiers who fought on our behalf in the wars of the distant past, the two World Wars in particular.
But as time has gone on and the veterans from those wars are harder and harder to find, the ceremonies have taken on a different meaning for me. I know some people who argue that Remembrance Day is too much of a celebration of war and does not offer enough of a critique against the decision to go to war, but while I understand that line of reasoning, I think it misses the point of the day.
To me it is about the veterans, who did the bidding of our elected representatives whether the decision to send them to war was wise or unwise, and about the Royal Canadian Legion as a fluid institution, and its role as a reminder of the past and as a force in our local communities.
This comes to the fore in particular this year after the loss of the Legion branch in Northbrook. Over the years, members of that branch have played a role at North Addington Education Centre, supported numerous fund raising efforts at Pine Meadow Nursing Home, and kept the connections between aging veterans in the surrounding communities alive.
The branch closed because the number of active members had dwindled to the point where there was no way to keep operating, which is another example of the fragility of the community organisations that are so vital to keeping our small communities alive in this era of shrinking and aging populations.
Fortunately the Arden Legion has stepped forward and conducted Remembrance Day ceremonies last Sunday in Flinton and Denbigh, in addition to the two they run in Mountain Grove and Arden on November 11.
The other function of Remembrance Day is to remind us of the cost of war.
One is about a documentary based on the war time experiences of Flinton resident Harry Andringa in his native Holland, where he witnessed the impact of the Nazi regime on Dutch Citizens in general and Jews in particular. The stories are harrowing. The other is about Canadian Navy vet Bob Stinson of Sydenham, who, although he never really knew it at the time, almost got caught up in a battle for supremacy between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev over missiles in Cuba. Both remind us of the arbitrariness of war on those who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In response to the release of the provincial Education Quality and Education Test results, the communications department of the Limestone District School Board (LDSB) might score well, above the provincial average, if they were being tested for creative writing skills.
The headline on the LDSB release that accompanied the province wide release of results, which took place in late September, was the following: EQAO results show achievement in some levels continuing to improve.
While it is true that results for Special Needs students in the board improved, the other result that was touted, a narrow improvement in grade 6 reading and writing scores, is diminished when you look at the comparative data in the tables at the bottom of the release.
In every single category, Limestone’s results lag behind province-wide results, by an average of 12% on the three categories tested in grade 3, 8% in the categories tested in grade 6, and 6% in the grade 9 math test.
The only parity in the release came from the scores of Academic stream English students, who met the 92% provincial success rate in the literacy test. Applied level English students, at 40%, were 4% behind the provincial average of 44%.
Math results, in particular, are a concern for all ages of students in the LDSB.
47% of Limestone grade 3 students tested at the provincial standard level in math (the provincial average was 62%) and only 39% of grade 6 students reached that level (50% - provincial average).
77% of grade 9 Academic stream math students in grade 9 reached the provincial standard (83% - provincial average) and 38% in the Applied stream reached the standard (44% - provincial average).
“We have, and will continue, to make math teaching and learning a priority among our staff and students,” said Limestone Board Director of Education Debra Rantz, in response to the results. “We have been getting better at the early identification of students who are not meeting math expectations and we will remain focused on supporting these students.”
While there are some exceptions, the results in primary schools in Frontenac County tend to be at below the rest of the Limestone Board in terms of results.
Again math continues to be a difficulty, but there is some good news at the High School level. Grade 9 students at Sydenham HS are actually at or above the provincial average in math scores, and Granite Ridge EC students are not too far behind, while the results at North Addington EC lag quite a bit, but in North Addington’s case the small number of students makes it difficult to generalize from the results.
4% increase likely in Frontenac County budget – offset by 1% in growth
Frontenac County Council said yes to most of the requests for funding it received as part of its 2018 budget deliberations. Fortunately for Frontenac County ratepayers, a lot of the requests came from service areas that are shared with the City of Kingston. For example, the cost of a new 11pm -7am Personal Support Worker Shift at Fairmount Home, a 1.4 FSE (Full time staff equivalent) is $91,147 with benefits, but Frontenac County ratepayers will only pay $29,167 and City of Kingston ratepayers will cover the rest because of a cost sharing agreement for the home. Similarly, a Human Resources generalist position that is being created will cost $87,815 for salary and benefits, but only $27,339 is being charged to county residents. A $45,000 parking lot improvement project at the Fairmount Home/County office complex will similarly cost county ratepayers $14,400 with Kingston covering the rest.
The major exception, in terms of cost, is the proposal for a $35,000 levy contribution to the Economic Development Reserve Fund, and a commitment to increase that reserve by $35,000 each year for the next five years, in order to bring the department into a stronger long term position with an annual budget that is $170,000 higher than 2016 levels by 2023.
Although this proposal will lead to a greater increase in taxation than any of the other proposals in front of Council, it was well received and enthusiastically approved. Much of that enthusiasm can be attributed to the successful implementation of the new Frontenac brand and the brand ambassador program.
“I’ve been involved in municipal politics for 30 years and for the first time people are coming up to me at church and asking about how they can get involved in a Frontenac County program. They are now relating to the county as something that can do something for us,” said Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith.
“I don’t think that my township is going to set up an economic development department on its own,” said Ron Vandewal of South Frontenac. “We rely on the county for this. Even if it costs us more in the future, it is still cheaper than doing it on our own.”
All told the projects listed above will increase the county levy by 0.91%.
Council also considered a number of external requests. The largest of these was a request from the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation for a $200,000 annual donation. Council opted instead for a $55,061 annual donation. Because the County has been making a donation of $54,000 each year for ten years, and even though the ten year commitment was over with, the expenditure is already included in the budget, so only the increase was included for the purpose of budget deliberations last week, even though all decisions will be subject to a further consideration of the entire budget on November 15.
Still, council members took divergent views towards the request.
John Inglis from North Frontenac said that he took the presentation by the hospital foundation, which took place in September, “at face value, and I support making a $200,000 donation.”
On the other side of the coin, South Frontenac Mayor (and current County Warden) Ron Vandewal said “I really struggle when you start spending money outside of your mandate”.
North Frontenac Mayor (and current Deputy Warden) Ron Higgins said “This is basically a donation. Is it in our job to do donations? I can’t justify it.”
Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith took the middle ground.
“I do believe we have to give them something,” she said, “but we struggle to pay our own staff. I can’t see a jump like they are looking for.”
Gradually the status quo expenditure of $55,061 seemed to gain favour.
“I’ve got no problem doing what we are already doing, because it is in our budget,” said Frontenac Islands Mayor Dennis Doyle.
By a show of hands $55,061 donation was remained in the budget (see editorial)
A smaller donation, $6,000 towards a scholarship program for children in foster care, was also approved, but a $10,000 request for an incentive program for recording artists was referred to the Community Development Advisory Committee.
The final discussion centered around a set of requests from Frontenac Transportation Services (FTS) for an increase to the $96,000 that the county already contributes. The not for profit service is led by Rural Frontenac Community Services, in partnership with Southern Frontenac Community Services.
Because of change in ridership over the last 18 months or so, a decrease in third party funded rides by agencies such as Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Supports Program, and an increase in rides for seniors, FTS has moved from a modest surplus standing, to a deficit. To deal with their financial issues, they asked the county for a $20,000 increase in the annual support payment, a $10,000 one time payment to cover the 2017 deficit, $5,000 for a fund to subsidise rides for low income seniors, and $10,000 to undertake a pilot project to develop an accessible service in response to a request from the Frontenac County Accessiblity Committee.
Dennis Doyle was un-moved by the requests.
“I think we give them enough already,” he said, but his view did not prevail.
“I can’t see putting another $20,000 on the levy without seeing a business case from them that tells us how they are going to deal with the reality they are facing on the ground,” said Ron Vandewal.
In the end Vandewal’s position held sway. Council agreed to provide an extra $20,000 in 2018 as a one time payment, taken from a $100,000 senior’s transportation reserve fund, and to fund the $10,000 pilot from the same fund, which will be cut to $70,000 by the end of the year.
“They can come to Council next year with a business plan and the new council can decide if they want to do a permanent increase in funding,” said Vandewal.
Because reserve funds were used, the FTS increase will not impact the levy, and the impact from all the requests from outside sources was only $7,061, the net impact of all the project proposals debated by the Committee of the Whole on Wednesday and Thursday of last week is an increase of a shade under 1% on the overall levy.
County Treasurer Susan Brant told the news last week that the operating budget she has prepared will include an increase inline with the annualised Consumer Price Index for August (1.5%) and a commitment to a 0.65% increase for an infrastructure reserve, which are both mandated by Council.
With the increases from last week, that 3.15% budget increase is likely. Brant also indicated that, as was done last year, another increase of up to 1% will likely be included in the budget. This will be offset by property assessment growth in the county that will be identified by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation when they deliver their annual assessment report for Frontenac County.
In all, the budget that Council will see on November 20 will include an increase in the range of 4% in the overall levy to county ratepayers.
Frontenac County Council has approved, in principle, a plan to donate $55,061 each year for the next ten years to the University Hospitals Foundation of Kingston, the fundraising arm of the Kingston General, Hotel Dieu, and Providence Care hospitals.
This decision came about after two presentations by board members of the University Hospitals Foundation earlier this year. This was the final year of a previous 10 year $54,000 annual commitment by Frontenac County to the hospitals.
To continue what was, in 2007 as it is now, a mistaken way to spend municipal tax dollars, is a bad decision that will essentially tie the hands of the councils that are elected in 2018 and 2022.
Unlike every other decision made by Council as part of the budget deliberations, the donation to the hospital foundation has nothing to do with either the mandated operations of the county or providing direct services to county residents. It is a charitable donation, much the same as a donation any Frontenac County resident might make to the same foundation or any other charitable cause.
As residents of Frontenac County and as patients in a health care system where the Kingston hospitals play an important regional role, we might indeed be inclined to make donations to the hospital foundation as individuals. But we can make that decision ourselves, and do not need a council that was not elected for that purpose to make a donation with our money. Furthermore, we already pay for hospitals through income taxes, as we are well aware.
Any further donation we would make to the hospital foundation as individuals would with a tax deduction, but Frontenac County does not even receive a tax deduction for this donation.
There seem to be only two arguments in favour of the council making this decision. The first is that it did so once before, and the second is that the City of Kingston does it, so we should too.
The decision in 2007 was not a good one, so why repeat it.
As far as Kingston is concerned, the city has an entirely different economic relationship with its hospitals than Frontenac County does. The hospitals are intricately connected to Queen’s University, an economic engine like no other in Kingston, The hospitals draw people and resources into the city and generate revenue for dozens of medically related businesses in town. When people come from Frontenac County and elsewhere to the hospitals, they spend money at Kingston businesses.
The economic relationship between the City of Kingston and its hospitals is different from that of Frontenac County, and the fact the City supports the hospital certainly does not justify Frontenac County doing so.
Some members of Frontenac County Council may have been influenced by the way the proposal to make a donation was presented to them last week. $54,000 was already included in the budget, as if it was an ongoing commitment, which it wasn’t, and only the $1,000 increase was presented as an increase to the budget. This is not the case. The entire $55,000 is new spending, the largest single discretionary increase in the entire budget.
The Frontenac County budget has not been finalized. That will likely happen on November 15.
Council still has the opportunity to reverse this commitment and bring in a smaller budget increase or divert the money to an internal priority for county residents.
The University Hospital Foundation of Kingston is indeed a noble cause, but there are, to quote of our great poets, “a wide wide world of noble causes out there”.
Our Council should not be spending our money in this way. They can and should reverse this decision.