County of Haliburton warden Liz Danielsen said the municipality is preparing for provincial cutbacks.

Premier Doug Ford addressed the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference Aug. 19, which Haliburton’s municipal leaders are attending. With the address came announcements the province would forge ahead with previously considered cuts to public health and childcare spaces, forcing municipalities to foot more of those bills. The province is also expected to cut into its main assistance grant for municipalities.

Danielsen said the county is working to find savings in preparation for expected cuts.

“The County, in cooperation with the four lower-tier municipalities, continues to work aggressively to improve and streamline the delivery of services throughout the county to realize savings,” she said.

But Danielsen said there was promising information in the province’s announcements. She said the province has assured there will be no privatization for ambulance services, which they were considering. The county has previously expressed concerns over the province changing the ambulance system.

Besides that, Ford also announced more funding for the ambulances.

“The county will be eligible for up to a four per cent increase in funding for EMS next year,” Danielsen said.

The province also announced it would maintain the structure for the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) in 2020, the primary municipal assistance grant. Ford also announced additional transitional funding in 2020.

“To help our municipal partners pursue greater fiscal sustainability and protect the future of public services,” Ford said in his address. “So you can continue to deliver important services people rely on every day.”

Municipalities are bracing for future cuts to the OMPF, but Danielsen said there will at least be some stability for 2020.

“While there is little doubt the OMPF funding will be reduced in the future, the actual structure of how the funding is delivered will remain fundamentally the same,” Danielsen said.

Municipalities will soon be expected to pay for 30 per cent of public health costs and 20 per cent of new childcare spaces. Danielsen noted the City of Kawartha Lakes remains responsible for overseeing childcare spaces, which it does in Haliburton on behalf of the county.

“Members of the joint advisory committee will be meeting to discuss the impacts on childcare and other services in September and we will know more then,” Danielsen said. “Ultimately, decisions are theirs to make and we are prepared to manage whatever change comes our way.”

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