SVCA budget challenged by MNRF grant cuts of 50%

KENILWORTH –  Interim general manager Dick Hibma and accounting representative Laura Molson, spoke briefly on the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority (SVCA) 2020 budget to members of Wellington North council on Dec. 2.

Molson noted the SVCA board “is voting on the budget next week,” adding that the 2020 budget is projected to be $3,560,000 – which includes a $65,769 levy for Wellington North. In 2016 that levy was $57,870.

The two biggest sources of funding for the SVCA are self-generated revenues and the general levy – each is about $1.7-million, Molson said.

“Less than one per cent, is the funding from the province, which is about $41,000,” Molson said.

Challenges for the 2020 Budget

Molson said that during 2019 the province informed the SVCA that it would be reducing its annual operating grant by almost half.

She said over the past 18 years, the funding from the province had been unchanged and the conservation authority had no reason to anticipate the situation would change.

In addition, there has been no guarantee of funding for 2020.

Authority members remain cautious about relying on continued provincial funding and have made adjustments to the 2020 budget to reflect the uncertainty.

The 2020 budget has been prepared so that if no provincial funding comes in, the authority will not have to make another request of municipalities.

There was no general levy increase in 2019 resulting in a $28,000 shortfall carryover for 2020.

Molson noted that due to increased budget pressures the Agricultural Outreach Program is currently on hold.

She noted councillor Steve McCabe was on that committee.

Molson explained “for the first two years we had been getting grants to operate that program.”

Without that funding, the program was put on hold.

However, Molson noted the board will consider looking at the program for 2021.

McCabe said the board has worked hard to deal with the “lack of funding from the province for the past 18 years.”

What is happening now is a huge cut to the budget, McCabe added.