Chatham-Kent receives provincial funding boost

·3 min read

Chatham-Kent’s number crunchers are getting a head start on planning the 2022 municipal budget.

The Province has already announced its Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund allocations for next year, with Chatham-Kent seeing an increase of $332,100.

The municipality said this increase bumps the annual total received to $20,019,000.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Finance website, the program primarily supports northern and rural municipalities across the Province.

Its objectives are to recognize the challenges of northern and rural municipalities while targeting funding to those with more challenging fiscal circumstances and support areas with limited property assessment. It also aims to assist municipalities that are adjusting to year-over-year funding changes.

“The (partnership fund) is the main general assistance grant to small and rural municipalities,” said Gord Quinton, Chatham-Kent’s Chief Financial Officer.

He added it’s a result of the Province slowly phasing out allocations to municipalities that no longer qualify for the funding.

“It’s a recognition by the province that rural municipalities such as Chatham-Kent have a higher cost of infrastructure per population,” he said. “This is welcome news as we face a very challenging 2022 municipal budget with a high inflation impact.”

On Oct. 21, Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance, penned a letter to the head of council. He announced allocations - the earliest they have ever been announced - as he knew municipalities need information as early as possible to support municipal budget planning.

“Our government recognizes the importance of the OMPF to communities across the province, and we’ve heard loud and clear what our municipal partners are looking for,” said Bethlenfalvy.

He also announced in 2021 that the Province is providing the Municipality of Chatham-Kent with $19,696,900 in funding through the OMPF, which is the equivalent of $409 per household. The 2021 OMPF will provide a total of $500 million to 389 municipalities across the Province.

Bethlenfalvy added the program would continue to be responsive to changing municipal circumstances through annual data updates and related adjustments.

“I am also pleased to confirm that maintaining the program envelope at $500 million will allow for further support to be targeted to rural farming municipalities,” said Bethlenfalvy. “Specifically, rural municipalities with the highest levels of farmland will receive additional funding of up to $5 per household.”

He noted northern and rural municipalities with the most challenging fiscal circumstances would continue to have their guarantee enhanced up to 100 percent of the prior year’s allocation.

“Our government is committed to supporting municipalities in a way that is sustainable and responsible. Working together, we can achieve remarkable things for Ontario,” said Bethlenfalvy.

According to Quinton, the funding is helpful as municipal governments are not allowed to run deficits.

“The province provides these funds to help municipalities such as Chatham-Kent balance their budget without additional property taxation,” added Quinton.

Because municipalities aren’t allowed to run deficits, provincial funding helps balance the budget without adding onto property taxes to fill the void.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News

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