Crowe Valley Conservation Authority gets a reprieve 0
The Crowe Valley Conservation Authority (CVCA) seems to have found a temporary solution for this year to stave off moves by some local municipalities to have it dissolved.
Under the mandate of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) conservation authorities exist to manage local watersheds, including flood control, educational activities, and conservation areas. The MNR pays a portion of the costs of mandated programs, and municipalities are required to cover the balance of the costs.
A council member from each local municipality within the Crowe River watershed serves on the board, which manages the conservation authority. Councillor Brent Goodwin represents Wollaston Township on that board.
Costs continue to increase, and substantial infrastructure investments are looming. As the MNR pays a fixed rate for their mandated programs, all cost increases are passed onto the municipalities. This is the source of great irritation to member municipalities.
The CVCA board has refused to pass a budget for 2012 so far this year, and a committee was established to find a plan to improve the financial situation of the CVCA, and its resulting cost to the local municipalities.
The committee report was presented to the CVCA board recently, and included three options ranging from no changes, to significant jiggling of CVCA programs and assets, to simply dissolving or amalgamating the CVCA.
Subsequently Wollaston Township council voted unanimously to dissolve the CVCA.
At their first budget meeting on May 4, Goodwin told Wollaston Township Council that he had just found out the CVCA bill to the township for 2012 would be $24,176 amounting to a 3.89 per cent increase over last year. This was the first hint that CVCA may survive their ongoing budget struggles with Wollaston, and other area townships.
Then on May 8 at the Wollaston Township council regular meeting, further information was forthcoming. Goodwin was asked for any comment on the CVCA situation
He told council that the three options suggested by a working group had been discussed by the board, and tabled due to new information received from the auditor.
Upon questioning, Reeve Dan McCaw told the meeting that Faraday Township had also voted to dissolve CVCA.
"There were supposed to be four up here who were going to vote that way," he said. "But two changed their minds when they found out about another option."
Goodwin reported that the new option presented was a revised budget incorporating new information from the auditor, resulting in a 3.89 per cent increase over 2011.
"We will take a new look at it"' he said, "It has reduced the levy. This places a new option on the table. It will get us through this year, but who knows if it will be approved," he said.
Tim Pidduck, manager of the CVCA was contacted, and said he felt that the board did not originally have sufficient information upon which to make a decision based solely on the three options that had been presented to them.
In discussions with the auditor, they noted that there were differences between the audited statements and the budget in terms of what was requested as wages for staff. This amounted to over $15,000 savings from the final budget figures.
Goodwin also had neglected to tell the council meeting that the CVCA staff recognized that the authority was in a tight spot, and volunteered to help out by forgoing cost of living increases agreed to by the board for this year, and to changes to their salary grid.
"This was a significant portion of the savings," said Pidduck. "Probably about one third."
A few other adjustments reduced the budget increase to 3.89 per cent, less than last years increase.
The municipalities have a minimum of 30 days to review the new budget, before the next meeting of the CVCA board on June 21.
Peter Hulsman (MNR manager of land and water services), a spokesperson for the MNR said that they provide funding to help offset mandated programs conducted by CVCA. He had no idea what percentages of CVCA activities are MNR mandated.
Conservation authorities were also given permission by MNR to collect fees to offset costs in the past few years.
Hulsman said that even if municipalities feel that the funding is inadequate, it is at least a stable funding source.
The CVCA board is scheduled to meet, and make a decision about their budget on June 21.