Lisa Gervais: Big county challenges
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | August 3, 2017|
County Warden Brent Devolin, and Mike Rutter, the CAO of the County of Haliburton, have been making their rounds of lower-tier municipal councils to update them on the county’s work.
In part, they want local politicians to know where the tax money collected from their constituents is going.
The two came to Minden Hills council recently, the third municipality they’ve visited.
We’ve already reported on their trip to Dysart et al but noted a few interesting things within the pages of their 15-page power point that we haven’t written about in any detail yet.
Number one. Some $75,000 is being spent on physician recruitment in 2017. However, that figure will need to grow by an additional $50,000 in 2018 – taking it to $125,000.
The $75,000 this year will fund financial incentives to physicians who commit to practice family medicine in the county. Each new physician who commits to practice for a minimum of four years is eligible to receive $25,000 per year to a maximum of $150,000. This program was modelled after one in Hastings County and is similar to incentives provided in many jurisdictions in the province.
Rutter commented that six of 10 physicians in the county are over the age of 50. The county isn’t certain how many will retire but have been told we may need as many as four replacement physicians in the next five years.
This is concerning on many fronts. Many people in the county don’t have a local family doctor and are forced to use the emergency departments at Haliburton and Minden. There are no walk-in clinics with the exception of one for two months in Haliburton in summer.
Number two. Seems the City of Kawartha Lakes has never billed Haliburton County for affordable housing administration costs. Until now. The county is faced with a $28,000 bill in 2017. As a taxpayer, I’d like to know how that was allowed to happen.
We asked Rutter and he said it stems from the province deciding CKL would be the manager for social services and housing for the county as well as CKL. A two-phase transfer began in 2001. Rutter said at the time there was an understanding that admin costs would be left out, because of county concerns, it was difficult to track expenses.
He said CKL has since refined the method in which expenses are calculated and when the service agreement was reviewed last year, the CKL proposed to include the administration costs.
Rutter said county council is now satisfied it’s only being charged for county-related costs so agreed to pay. He said future, annual payments, would be smaller.
Number three. Some $72,000 has been set aside for Whispering Pines affordable housing phase 2 in 2017, with another $72,000 slated for 2018. The first phase of 24, one-bedroom units, was built adjacent to Tim Hortons on the outskirts of Haliburton along County Road 21 in 2013.
They’re hoping to construct next year. The plan is for 12 family townhouses on the same property. Six will be two-bedroom and six will be three-bedroom.
Rutter shared that 300 households are on a waiting list in Haliburton County, so “our work is not done.”
So, what is the take-away from all of this? The county’s biggest challenges remain in the soft services of health and housing and unless the province agrees to claw back some of the downloading it has done in the past, and ceases current and planned future downloads, it will remain a huge strain on the County of Haliburton and its taxpayers.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.