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Timiskaming Health Unit approves 5% budget increase

Casey Owens, who sits on the board of health, said the budget was slated to 'go up a lot more'
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The Timiskaming Health Unit has passed this year’s budget with a five per cent increase.

At a Kirkland Lake council meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 6), Coun. Casey Owens said the budget is going up by five per cent. 

Owens is a member of the board of health alongside Mayor Stacy Wight, who’s the board chair.

“Unfortunately, 2024 was a very, very challenging year for health units for the budgets. Costs of everything have gone up. Funding from the province has diminished, mitigation funding through COVID has all been eliminated for 2024, so we can't rely on it anymore,” Owens said.

“The province has limited the increase of funding to public health in Ontario to one per cent unless you are willing to negotiate or discuss a merger, which THU's currently in the process of with the Porcupine Health Unit. But, that’s a whole different finance story.”

The meeting was held on Jan. 31. Owens said the budget was slated to go up a lot more.

“But through different programs or attrition of staff and access to negotiations for the merger, we were able to limit it to five per cent which represents an increase of $19,256 for year 2024 for the Town of Kirkland Lake for a total of $404,000, which is roughly 25 per cent of THU's municipal levy,” he said.

In one way, it’s bad news because they will be paying more, Owens said.

“But good news because if we go back, previous council we received a refund of our portion of reserves for THU. The province had started to announce that they were going down the direction of mergers and THU at that time felt that our reserves that were accumulated through municipal levy should be in better hands with the municipality than in a new entity,” he said.

“But COVID hit and changed everything. We received $229,000 back in Dec. 2019. In the letter it was clearly indicated that those were THU reserves money and it should remain THU reserve money, but inside of Kirkland Lake reserve fund, which Kirkland Lake did. We were good. We kept the money there.”

Owens said they are faring better than some of their neighbours around the district.

“So what I will be proposing on that when we go through the budget is that the increase be taken off of that reserve, which is a THU reserve, but within the budget of the Town of Kirkland Lake, so that we minimize the impact on ratepayers for the Town of Kirkland Lake,” he said.

“We can still pay the budget $385,000 which would have been the normal levy from last year and go through the reserves.”

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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