| Mar 03, 2005


Feature article, March 3, 2005

Feature article March 3, 2005

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Province cant fast talk its way out of bill, say Eastern Ontario Wardens.

by Jeff Green

At the annual Rural Ontario Municipal Association Conference in Toronto last week, members of the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus were looking for answers about monetary transfers from the province under the Community Reinvestment Fund, which was designed to compensate municipalities for the cost of delivering services that were forcibly downloaded to them from the province.

Each year, a set amount is transferred to municipalities based on projected costs. Then, once the actual cost of delivering the services are determined, the province is supposed to reimburse the municipalities for the actual costs. The services municipalities are compensated for include Ontario Works and other programs whose costs vary according to how many people use the service.

The reconciliation process has not taken place since 2002.

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After a presentation by Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretson, Bob Sweet, Chair of the Wardens Caucus said Instead of doing the right thing and paying up, Minister Gerretson announced a so-called transition fund of $200 million for the entire province, which he said was focussed on the 2003 reconciliation bill, leaving 2004s bill unpaid. Many municipalities in Eastern Ontario incurred huge increases in delivering these services in 2004, Sweet said.

Central Frontenac Mayor Bill MacDonald, who attended the presentation by Gerretson in his role as Warden of Frontenac County, told the News that the total amount owing to the four Frontenac Townships for 2003 and 2004 is about $1.3 million, and we will receive about a quarter of that. In Central Frontenac, it will amount to about $90,000.

MacDonald said he shared Bob Sweets concerns about 2004 reconciliation, for which Gerretson made no commitment.

Gerretson has promised that a new model is being developed for 2005 forward, but he reportedly said there would be winners and losers under the new formula.

This prompted Bill MacDonald to say, No matter what the system, lets make sure there are no winners and losers in all this. It should be a fair system. Recently there was a gas tax rebate announced, but we wont be seeing any of it in Frontenac County. We cant afford for this to happen with the Community Reinvestment Funds.

Speaking on behalf of the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus, Bob Sweet said, The members of our wardens caucus have made our position clear. We will not accept any new deal until we have been paid in full for 2003 and 2004.

We have had to pay to deliver the services, Bill MacDonald added, instead of the money coming from the province as promised it has come directly from our taxpayers.

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