NVCA asked to justify budget increase
Like most municipalities, Clearview Township doesn’t like to see an increase to its levy for the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) but this year, the organization is being asked for even more justification.
This after provincial Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek sent a letter requesting conservation authorities review and consider their activities and begin preparations and planning to wind down those activities that fall outside of the scope of their core mandate (defined as risk of natural hazards, conservation and management of conservation authorities owned and controlled lands, drinking water source protection, protection of the Lake Simcoe watershed, and other programs or services as prescribed by regulation).
“Finally, I ask that while we are undergoing this review and updating the legislation and regulations that you do not proceed with any increases to your fees or levies,” said Yurek.
In his response, NVCA CAO Doug Hevenor said he was shocked and frustrated by the letter.
“For close to 60 years, in concert with a multitude of partners, the NVCA has safeguarded our watershed communities from natural hazards including flooding and erosion. We have protected our drinking water and generated millions of dollars for environmental restoration and enhancement projects within our member municipalities. A healthy environment also supports strong tourism, bringing economy to local communities,” wrote Hevenor.
“None of this would be possible without the integration of all of our programs, including natural hazard management, monitoring, forestry, stewardship and education. The separation and ‘winding down’ of these programs has the potential to cause long term impacts to watershed ecological health and increase flooding and erosion. Consequential economic impacts could affect key areas such as recreation, agriculture, municipal infrastructure, and public health. Now more than ever, this effective and efficient approach to integrated watershed management is paramount and to not continue would be a serious step backwards and put our watershed in grave danger.”
He goes on to say, “In light of the fact that your government funds less than two per cent of the NVCA’s budget, we question the Province’s authority to make this request.”
Hevenor was before Clearview council Nov. 18 to defend the NVCA’s 2020 budget, which proposes a one per cent levy increase across its 18 contributing municipalities. If the budget passes, Clearview would pay $124,970.26, an increase of $149.12 over last year.
Deputy Mayor Barry Burton brought the issue to the table asking the NVCA to define its mandated operations, other programs and services, costs, and revenue.
Hevenor said the NVCA is bound by the Conservation Authorities Act and although the Ford government is planning a review of the legislation, if they were to change operations immediately they would be in contravention of the Act. He said at the time when there are changes, the NVCA will adapt.
He went on to outline the way the NVCA offers programs not dependent on provincial funding to educate and encourage land stewardship, while increasing revenues to the tune of $1,503,200 in user fees.
Earlier this year the NVCA saw its funding for flood management programs reduced by almost half.
“We could have thrown up our hands when we lost $91,183 in flood management funding. We could have passed it along to our partners but we didn’t want to do that,” Hevenor told council.
He said those items “outside of the scope of the core mandate” are not big ticket items but they are important.
“I think we are a very good value for our product,” said Hevenor.
“By no means am I trying to undermine the good work the NVCA has done,” said Burton, adding he understands the “squeeze” they are feeling from the province because they are feeling at county council. “It comes down to value for service.”
Burton said it is the developers and residents who complain about the “slow down” when dealing with the NVCA.
Hevenor acknowledged that for several reasons less than 90 per cent of permits were delivered on time in 2017 and 2018, but that has improved in 2019.
On Monday, Clearview council ended up passing a motion presented by NVCA rep Thom Paterson that, Clearview be consulted on the ongoing review of mandatory and non-mandatory services provided as part of their legislated core mandate and that the NVCA establishes clear service performance metrics for each municipality that demonstrate the efforts the NVCA is taking to meet municipal service requirements.
“I have been encouraging this open discussion,” said Paterson. “There is not enough dialogue between the two agencies because we are all busy… There is a sense that the province is listening. The NVCA is getting the point and making the point. I’d like to see the municipality in on that discussion.”
Mulmur is seeing a reduction of $269.50 in 2020. The NVCA board of directors will vote on the 2020 budget on Dec. 13.