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CDSSAB, 'community vitriol' factors in future budgets, says Matheson CAO

The township is starting its 2024 budget process

BLACK RIVER-MATHESON - Five months into the year, Matheson is starting its budget process.

At the May 13 Matheson council meeting, provincial appointee Kathy Horgan gave administration the go-ahead to work on the document.

Key concerns impacting the 2024 budget include the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF), user fee updates, uncontrollable provincial costs and CUPE Local 1490 union negotiations when an agreement is made.

Since 2015, clerk-treasurer Cassandra Child said the municipality has lost unconditional grant revenues from OMPF equal to a cumulative amount of $438,000.

This year the town will lose another $46,000 from the grant fund, meaning the budget will need to reflect the loss, Child said.

Aside from utility rates, Child said general user fees haven’t been revised and updated since 2008. Staff are also exploring other charges that could be imposed on municipal services targeted for the specific user utilizing the service. All the user fees will be presented to council once completed.

In relation to uncontrollable provincial costs, Child said the operating budget will reflect the overall increase of $148,958 which will impact the levy by 3 per cent.

The most substantial cost related to the provincial costs is District Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB), which in 2023 cost the town $911,589. This year its cost is set at over $1 million, totalling an increase of $121,035.

The Porcupine Health Unit (PHU), Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) are also a part of the category.

SEE: Matheson byelection to cost at least $10K, will impact 2024 budget

Monday's meeting was the first time township business has been dealt with since February. While the council members were ousted last month, Horgan is making council decisions until new members are elected in August.

In response to Child’s report, Horgan asked that anything delayed which could result in financial repercussions or put the municipality at risk be explained in the budget document

“Then during deliberations those can be discussed and reviewed and and voted on,” Horgan said.

A report from CAO Chris Wray highlighting trends that may impact the operations of the township through the 2024 budget and future budgets was also approved by Horgan at the meeting.

The COVID-19 pandemic, Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board (CDSSAB), deferring agenda items and "community vitriol" were all topics noted in Wray's report. 

Regarding the pandemic, Wray said there has been a detrimental impact resulting from it, continuing into 2023. To prepare for any future pandemics, the township should establish proper policies and data, as well as a business continuity plan, he suggests. 

Because Timmins has a 50 per cent interest in board seats at the CDSSAB, Wray said it would be in the best interests of Matheson to try to change the board representation.

"Certainly, a more balanced board would make sense and provide a sense of fairness. This can only be conducted by engaging the other members and lobbying for change. It is also important to make the DSSAB aware of the effect of their increases on our budget," Wray wrote.

Deferring agenda items was noted in Wray's report in light of the three former councillors who boycotted council meetings in order to have the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing step in.

"The recent actions of some on council to simply abandon their responsibilities of attending council meetings will have a dramatic effect on the business of the township," he said in the report.

"Hopefully, this will be addressed in the short run. In the interim, there should be an understanding of what this means to the township, including the inability to pass the 2024 budget and thus fund future operations." 

In terms of community vitriol, Wray listed complaints surrounding community members including the establishment of Facebook groups where he alleges residents are bullying council and staff, as well as the creation of a ratepayers association.

"It would be in the best interest of the township to establish a method to regularly communicate with the residents using an educational approach to offset the gaslighting and misinformation that is being stated on the Facebook pages and through other types of communication," he wrote. 

SEE: 'We want our town back': Ongoing issues bring Matheson residents together

A presentation of the 2024 budget and its impact on the tax levy will be presented to council next month.

Child’s budget guideline report can be found here.

Wray's report can be found here.

Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Marissa Lentz covers civic issues along the Highway 11 corridor under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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