County of Haliburton municipalities are calling on the province to give proper consideration of rural and northern municipalities as it undertakes a review of the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF).

As of Jan. 24, all four lower-tier municipal councils have voted to send letters to Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli in regards to the review of the OMPF. Fedeli wrote municipalities Dec. 21 that the province is reviewing the OMPF, the province’s main assistance grant to municipalities, as part of its efforts to reduce its deficit.

County of Haliburton Warden Liz Danielsen said the fund is a significant revenue stream for municipalities.

“The thought of losing all of or any substantial portion of our Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund contributions remains of extreme concern to all municipalities that rely heavily on this source of funding,” Danielsen said in an email. “It can amount to as much as 25 per cent of a small municipality’s revenue stream and that loss would have a significant impact on taxes or levels of service being provided.”

In response to Fedeli, Danielsen wrote a letter dated Jan. 14, with all four lower-tier municipalities voting to support it and draft their own similar letters at their latest regular meetings. The letter notes the county and its municipalities receive a total in excess of $7 million in OMPF funding and it is hoped the renewed program will continue to support rural and northern municipalities.

“We understand the program is not functioning as it was originally intended and we must do our part to address the fiscal challenges we face as a province,” Danielsen wrote. “We respectfully request, however, that rural and northern communities continue to receive transfer funds that reflect our different needs and challenges.”

The review has led to a delay in the details on the allotments each municipality reviews under OMPF. Fideli said in the Dec. 21 letter the amount of deficit incurred by the previous government was unsustainable.

“This is why we’re making every effort to restore fiscal balance to the province,” he said. “While we will be operating within a smaller funding envelope, we want to work with you to return the program to what it was initially intended to do – support the Northern and rural municipalities that need it most.”

At the Algonquin Highlands council meeting Jan. 17, treasurer Tammy McKelvey said the delay in the OMPF allotment is affecting budgeting.

“We would normally know about this funding in November, so it has a huge impact,” McKelvey said. “It makes it difficult to move forward with budget.”

Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt said there is some confidence rural municipalities will be safe but they will have to see.

“We’ll wait with bated breath,” she said during the Jan. 17 meeting. “The timing is critical to get the letters in while the review is undertaken.”

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