Tay feels backed into a corner due to lack of environmental oversight options

·3 min read

The Severn Sound Environmental Association's (SSEA) increasing funding requests of Tay are not sitting well with a council seeking fiscal responsibility in its upcoming budget.

"Our request simply was (for them) to be fiscally responsible like the municipalities that support you are," said Mayor Ted Walker, talking at a Thursday committee meeting about the 59-page explaining the SSEA's position. "But what I'm seeing are projections that are beyond what we can do.

"Also, they mention the fact that they pay us $30,000 for our financial services," he continued. "We know that. That should not be included as part of the consideration of tax increase to point out to us. I think that was a little bit unfair, a little bit twisting the knife.

I think our response to this should be, we're aware you provide good services, so do we. We would request you use the same fiscal restraints your member municipalities do when setting the budget."

The township paid the SSEA $66,000 in 2019, and $108,000 in 2020. The association is requesting $132,000 for 2021, basing the price on core services and special projects. The number also includes funding for services previously provided separately by Sustainable Severn Sound, which has now been absorbed by the SSEA.

Coun. Barry Norris echoed the mayor's comments, pointing out the funding request jumped almost $42,000 from 2019 to 2020.

"Then we got another 3% this year with no justification. Me being the person I am there are four categories within the report that don't fall under the core. I'm curious who dictates these extras."

Coun. Sandy Talbot was ready to deny their request.

"They have the monopoly on neighbouring municipalities," she said. "Is there an alternative? If there isn't, they gotcha. I wouldn't give them the amount they're requesting. Everybody is struggling right now. For them to ask for that increase, it's unbelievable."

Coun. Mary Warnock wasn't sure how the township could outright deny the increase in funding.

"We do share this with the other municipalities," she said. "I know we have an issue with the increases, but how would we address this when this is a shared cost with our neighbouring municipalities? How would we deny the increase?"

Walker concurred with his peers.

"There really is no avenue for us," he said. "Our residents don't have any avenue either. Maybe where it's going to have to go is simply in relationship to core services. We're going to have to look at those core services and see if there are any cuts that can be made."

Joanne Sanders, manager of financial services/treasurer, tried to explain how it all works.

"When municipalities sign an agreement, it sets out a board that make decisions," she said. "They adopt the strategic plan that has core services. When we asked the question, what's legislated and what's discretionary? We never get that answer. We get the mandatory things and those are things that the board decided. Council has a rep on the board so it needs to work it's way back to that."

Coun. Paul Raymond, who represents Tay on the SSEA board, said he is scheduled for a one-on-one orientation to gather more information to bring back to council.

"We've already have one work session on board members and responsibilities," he said. "One thing that came up for discussion was that it was intimated that core services are not a selective process. From the SSEA's point of view, the core services are the core services, and there is no picking what you want."

Walker disagreed with that stance.

"Whether it's a core services or other services, they need to be reviewed," he said. "This doesn't seem right to me."

All committee members asked Raymond to take the matter back to the SSEA to be discussed at a board meeting.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com