(File photo).

UCPR faces budget dilemma due to provincial funding changes

Provincial funding cuts or changes are making it difficult for the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) to plan its spending.

At the May 8 Committee of the Whole Meeting, Treasurer Julie Ménard-Brault said an estimated $1.4 million in provincial funding is affected, but details on exactly which programs could be affected and by how much are still forthcoming.

She told council that re-budgeting some programs and projects could be necessary.

According to the 2019 UCPR budget, $47,121,400 in provincial grant revenue was anticipated by the counties for this year.  A loss of $1.4 million would reduce that amount to $45,721,400.  A $1.4 million reduction would mean a three per cent reduction in provincial grant revenue and it would affect 1.2 per cent of the $112,922,700 UCPR budget for 2019.

Hawkesbury Mayor Paula Assaly commented that the funding reductions are happening along with cuts already announced to public health units.

Clarence-Rockland Mayor Guy Desjardins asked if the provincial government would cut possible grant funding for the new Prescott-Russell Residence.

Ménard-Brault said she was not aware of any cuts to Residence-related funding.

In an interview following the meeting, Ménard-Brault said letters from various provincial ministries are notifying the counties of the funding reductions, but guidelines and details have so far been unclear.

“It’s a bit vague,” she said.

The treasurer added that the province can also impose financial penalties on the counties if they do not meet certain targets or benchmarks for service delivery.

Ménard-Brault said specific details of the funding reductions are still being determined, but that provincial funding for emergency services in 2019 will be the same as in 2018, which was in turn based on 2017 amounts.

Assaly said in an interview that one of the problems with the provincial funding is that the municipal fiscal year follows the calendar year and the provincial government’s fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31, and the counties already had approved its budget in February.

“We’re in a situation where we have to review everything,” she said.

Hawkesbury council approved its 2019 budget in January.  Assaly said it is not yet clear how or if any provincial funding changes could affect the town’s financial plans for the year.

James Morgan

James Morgan is a freelance contributor. He has worked for several print and broadcast media outlets. James loves the history, natural beauty, and people of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

jamesmorgan has 851 posts and counting.See all posts by jamesmorgan