LAMBTON SHORES — A surprise, special election year gift from Ontario’s Liberal government?
For the second consecutive year, the province is increasing its Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) grant to Lambton Shores and, for 2018, the hike is a substantial $213,000, compared with a modest bump-up of $13,800 for this year. That reversed a string of annual often protest-provoking substantial declines.
OMPF’s total funding amount of $1,702,600 in 2018 will be incorporated into the revenue column of the draft 2018 Lambton Shores operating budget, treasurer Janet Ferguson told the Nov. 28 meeting of council. Ferguson said the municipality is “fortunate” but members received and filed her report without commenting on the good fortune.
That’s in contrast to previous reactions such as “unfair and unacceptable” when a former edition of Lambton Shores council learned of annual OMPF cutbacks of as much as 16 per cent, with significant impacts on the tax rate.
Introduced in 2004, the OMPF program was created by the governing Liberals to help municipalities offset the extra cost of services downloaded upon them by the former Harris Conservative government. But as the Liberals started gradually reassuming some of those responsibilities they began phasing down annual OMPF payments.
The increase to Lambton Shores is especially surprising because, in their covering letter, Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro state, “As in prior years, the 2018 funding guarantee for municipalities in southern Ontario will be at least 85 per cent of their 2017 OMPF allocation and for municipalities in northern Ontario will be at least 90 per cent of their 2017 OMPF allocation.”
Also sharing in 2018’s ‘good fortune’ is the Municipality of South Huron which will receive a total benefit of $1,461,900, an increase of $114,800 from this year. But another neighbour, North Middlesex, will have to endure yet another annual slash of $284,500 to a 2018 total of $1,618,200.
Other council notes:
Council at its Nov. 28 session also received and filed a memorandum from clerk Stephanie Troyer-Boyd — a memo describing the dilemma faced by municipal staff in dealing with council decisions on applications for funding through NextEra Energy’s wind farm vibrancy grant program.
Troyer-Boyd’s memo states, in part, “At the November 7th meeting, the question asked was whether council could increase the $94,122 and fund more than what was recommended by the staff report. If council would like to increase the $94,122 at this point, there needs to be a reconsideration of the July resolution. Similarly, if council wishes to provide money to applications that are ineligible under the existing policy, then the policy should either be waived for this instance or amended. The resolution should be made that it is to fund other projects eligible under policy or it is to fund projects that are ineligible under the existing policy.”
The clerk further states, “The process that council has followed of setting the policy and subsequently setting an amount for allocation is clear. The supporting legislation for such policy development is the Municipal Act which specifically provides council the authority to develop and evaluate the policies and programs of a municipality. Enacting policies provides a framework for decision making ensuring consistency and fairness throughout the municipality — in this instance, the way applications are assessed and awarded (or not awarded) funding. The policy is the corporate direction that was formally adopted by council resolution. As noted, council can make changes at any time, but transparency for the public is important. The waters get muddied when funds are granted outside of the allocation amount and outside of the policy. Staff’s job is to work within the parameters that have been set by council (the approved policy and the allocation amount) which is what was presented to council for consideration on November 7th.”