Maitland Valley Conservation Authority raising levy by $92,000

MVCA struggles to maintain services as province cuts funds for flood/erosion safety

MINTO – The Maitland Valley Conservation Authority  (MVCA) is planning a 2020 levy increase of less than $100,000 as the authority continues to pare services back to a basic core mandate.

The authority’s draft budget was included in correspondence at the Feb. 4 Minto council meeting and received without comment.

The authority is proposing a total levy of $1,566,181 in 2020, up from $ 1,474,049 in 2019.

Minto’s share of the proposed levy is $107,058, up $6,136 from $100,922 last year.

Mapleton’s draft 2020 levy of $13,696 is an increase of $932 from $ 12,764 in 2019.

The budget proposes a levy of $42,959 for Wellington North in 2020, up $2,393 from $40,566 last year.

In order to balance the 2020 budget, a letter from MVCA chair and Minto deputy mayor Dave Turton points out the authority has eliminated any salary increases for staff except for a cost of living increase. This is the second year in a row that MVCA has eliminated any grid movement for staff, the report notes..

“We have also shifted some of our watershed stewardship staff over to project funding in order to balance the 2020 budget. This approach is not sustainable in the long run, as project funding varies from year to year. MVCA considers watershed stewardship to be a core service due to the amount of agricultural land in the watershed. In order to balance the budget, the members have included a levy increase of $92,132,” Turon notes in the letter.

The levy increase includes $34,132 that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry  eliminated from MVCA’s Flood and Erosion Safety transfer payment in 2019. The apportionment of the levy is based upon each municipality’s assessment in the watershed. The assessment schedule is developed by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

“We recognize that our member municipalities also have fiscal challenges however we hope that you will consider the circumstances that we face and take into account the changes that we have made to focus our work and budget on our core services,” Turton states in the letter.

The letter explains the MVCA has been focussed on identifying efficiencies and eliminating non-core services for the last five years. The authority is now focussed on core services:

– Flood and Erosion Safety: Helping member municipalities to reduce the potential for loss of life, property damage and social disruption in flood and erosion prone areas of the watershed;

– Watershed Stewardship: Helping municipalities and landowners to develop soil and water conservation systems to keep soil and nutrients on the land and out of watercourses and Lake Huron;  and

– Conservation Areas: Ensuring that MVCA conservation areas set a high standard for conservation practices and are safe for the public to use.

“As part of our review process the members have identified infrastructure and a conservation area that is not a part of our core services,” the letter indicates.

“Members have also decided to decommission the Gorrie Dam which is located at Gorrie Conservation Area,” the letter states. “We have made these changes in order to try and stabilize our operating and capital budgets. The members want to ensure that MVCA has a stable financial base to fund its core services and related infrastructure and equipment. This is extremely difficult to do when the province continues to reduce funding to conservation authorities. As you know the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) reduced funding for flood and erosion safety in 2019, even though this service is a provincially mandated service that conservation authorities must maintain. We have received no indication from the MNRF as to whether they will or will not provide any funding for flood and erosion safety in 2020.”

The letter indicates the authority members have decided that it would be inappropriate to reduce the budget for flood and erosion safety “because there are so many municipalities in the watershed that have development and people living and working in areas that are at risk of flooding and/or erosion.”

There is approximately $500 million dollars of development and several thousand people who live and/or work in communities that are susceptible to flooding, bluff collapse, gully and shoreline erosion, the letter points out.

The authority’s draft budget projects total operational spending of just over $2.5 million including about $1.2 million in project spending.

Among the flood and erosion safety projects proposed for 2020 is support for Harriston flood damage reduction efforts. This includes technical support provided to the Town of Minto to assist in selecting the most appropriate options for reducing potential for flood damage in the community. The MVCA indicates support will also be provided to the Town of Minto’s advocacy efforts for federal-provincial funding for a flood damage reduction project.

Other flood and erosion safety priorities identified are:

– Improvements to flood forecasting systems;

– shoreline erosion damage education and emergency planning; and

– flood mapping for the Township of North Huron and the Municipality of Morris Turnberry for the areas in and around Wingham.

The MVCA’s members will vote on the 2020 work plan, budget and levy on March 18.

North Wellington Community News