| Apr 27, 2006


Feature Article - April 27, 2006

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Feature Article - April 27, 2006

Let's cut up that pie

Editorial byJeff Green

When Frontenac County Council met last week with the intention of determining what to do with two pots of infrastructure money coming down from higher levels of government, they ended up getting caught in the details.

They were considering what to do with a $1 million windfall from the province called MOVE Ontario, and with $2 million in federal gas tax rebates that will come in over 5 years.

County staff prepared a complicated report calling for the MOVE Ontario funds to be disbursed according to an as yet to be determined formula based on traffic counts on downloaded roads, and asking that the first instalment of the gas tax money, about $200,000, remain with the county for as yet to be determined projects.

This led to a convoluted debate, with each of the four township mayors taking a different position. Ultimately the matter was deferred for one month.

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But the issue is really quite simple. The first question the mayors had to consider was: should any of the money be kept at the county level to benefit all taxpayers in the county equally?

No, it shouldn’t.

The money came down from on top to be used for roads and bridges. In Frontenac County the townships devote about half of their own budgets to road maintenance, and they all struggle to improve their worst roads. This money should be used to help them carry out this basic function.

The second question is: how should the money be divided up? There are only two realistic ways to do this: by population or by assessment.

Both MOVE Ontario and the federal gas tax rebate were distributed to Ontario municipalities based on the number of permanent residents in each jurisdiction, and the logic put forward on this matter by South Frontenac Mayor Bill Lake is compelling: “The money should go out the way it came in, according to the number of permanent residents in each township.”

However, this would be unfair to North Frontenac, which has a disproportionate number of seasonal residents for which they would receive no funding support. North Frontenac must maintain roads and bridges for 9,000 people, but only got funded for 1,800 people. For example, the federal gas tax money they would receive for this year would amount to only $17,000.

By using property assessment as the determining factor instead of population, however, North Frontenac does better, and South Frontenac would still receive the lion’s share of the money - over $600,000 of the $1 million MOVE Ontario money, for example. The other two townships would not see a huge difference under either model.

For South Frontenac Council, it would be a gesture of solidarity with their neighbours to the north to use property assessment as the dividing factor for this money, and they could take solace in the fact that none of the money will end up in a reserve fund at Frontenac County .

At least it would mean that all of this road and bridge money would end up on the roads and bridges of Frontenac County . -JG

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