AMO Coverage in Milton Champion

Milton politicians stress need for more schools at AMO – Key concerns discussed at provincial conference

Julia Le – Milton Canadian Champion:  A need for more schools was among the key concerns Mayor Gord Krantz and eight councillors raised last week during the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference.

Krantz, councillors Sharon Barkley, Arnold Huffman, Mike Cluett, Rick Di Lorenzo, Cindy Lunau and Zeeshan Hamid, Tony Lambert and Local and Regional Councillor Colin Best were joined by Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr and Halton District School Board Trustee Donna Danielli as they met with Deputy Education Minister George Zegarac at the conference held in Ottawa to explain the challenging situation they are finding the Town in and the dire need from the Province to commit to building more schools to support the fast growing communities and the families and young children moving into them.

The meeting was originally schedule with Education Minister Laurel Broten, however likely due to the issues surrounding the current negotiations with teachers’ unions and school boards, Broten was unable to attend the conference, held each year to bring together municipal and provincial leaders and offer panels, discussions, and keynotes on a selection of municipal interest topics led by industry experts.

The group served as a united front in presenting Zegarac the reality Milton faces.

Danielli, the school trustee for the Milton 2, 3, 4 and 5 areas, said if it wasn’t for the repurposing of the old E.C. Drury High School, P.L. Robertson Public School was projected to have 40 portables by 2014. The old high school will now host a satellite location for P.L. Robertson as a temporary measure until a new school is built.

“It’s the best solution we have, but it certainly isn’t an ideal situation,” she said, adding that there’s no real place for full-day kindergarten and that families will have to be split up at different locations.

The group also lobbied for more funding to keep older schools up-to-date technologically and physically.

Danielli added the funding formula the province uses to dole out money to school boards needs to be revised.

“When you look at the 11 boards that are closest in area (to us), we’re at the bottom of the list in terms of per pupil funding,” she said.

The 56,000 students in Milton are receiving $1,000 to $1,500 when compared to surrounding school boards.

Krantz said he believes the group put its best case forward to the Ministry of Education and Zegarac, who seemed to be well versed in the town’s concerns.

“Was there anything ultimately resolved, well that’s hard to tell at this point, but I refer to it as keeping issues on the radar screen,” he said. “I think being in their face with your issues is just as important. (It shows) we’re not going away until we get some of this stuff sorted out.”

Danielli was more optimistic about the outcome of the meeting.

She said Zegarac seemed empathetic, even going as far as to say Milton was the “poster child of why we need capital funding.”

She doesn’t believe anything will be resolved until teacher negotiations have been settled, but hopes the Town will get the green light sooner rather than later to start construction before the end of the year.

Other issues Krantz and councillors discussed with the appropriate provincial ministers at the conference included making sure the hospital expansion was kept on the radar and the effect the Slots at the Racetracks program closure will have, not only on the horse racing industry but on the town.

The Province announced earlier this year that all payments made to the horse racing industry, including Mohawk Slots, through the Slots at the Racetracks program will end as of March 31, 2013.

Krantz and Lunau met with Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin to discuss the importance of keeping the horse industry alive. 

Town Council Meeting June 28, 2010

Last night I attended the town council meeting in which there was to be a discussion on possible ways for the Town of Milton to set up and fund a hospital expansion reserve fund for consideration in next years budget.

The original motion can be found here for you to review.

Some of the highlited options for funding include:

  • Capital Related Items:  Redirection of Slot Revenues, GTA Pooling Funds, Debenture Financing
  • Developer Related Items:   Development Charges
  • External Revenue Generating Items:  Hydro / Hospital Generation Partnership (similar to Oakville Hydro), Parking Facility, Tax Levy.

There was a lot of discussion from a number of delegates last night talking about the pros and cons of each item.  The general consensus around the table and in the gallery was that we need to do something …now.  But aside from some passionate discussions from some councillors there really wasn’t a lot of direction from the table other than what was in the report.

According to the report, here are the next steps:

Next Steps

Continuation of Working Group and Community Consultation.  It is anticipated that the established working group would continue throughout the project to ensure:

– help develop a co-ordinated communications plan to enable the parties to consult widely with the community about the level of municipal contribution and the Local Share plan including but not limited to the various options as outlined in this report.

Reserve Fund

Staff is recommending that the establishment of a reserve fund dedicated to funding the redevelopment and expansion of Milton District Hospital be included as a recommendation in the 2011 budget for consideration.

Now when you look at the next steps, you might think not much has changed and it really hasn’t.  The goal of everyone in this town is to ensure that Milton gets what it needs from the provincial government to expand the health care services for the residents of Milton.  The very last option to be considered would be the special tax levy that would be brought on Milton taxpayers to fund the local portion of what is needed for hospital expansion.  The VERY last option.

 There were a few interesting and controversial ideas that came up including naming rights (which the town has no control over), and selling Milton Hydro.  As you will see from my presentation, I suggested we move this idea up to the regional level of government and quite possibly pool the tax base and solve everyone’s problems.  There are some risks in that as Mayor Krantz brought up “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!” but Milton’s tax base isn’t big enough.

 I also had concerns, that I didnt address in my presentation (due to 10 minute time limits) about slot revenues being used as we get them, instead of the towns current procedure of placing them in a reserve account for a year and then applying it to the capital budget.

I’ve been at the doors over the past few months and many of you have brought up slot revenues and how they should be used for the hospital fund.  Slot revenues are a gift, for the lack of a better word.  The Town of Milton gets a portion of the slot revenues every year but those funds aren’t 100% guaranteed.  They can end at any time and we cant take these revenues for granted.  So I’m cautious about relying solely on those funds.

Needless to say this isnt an issue that will go away or be solved in one meeting.

I talked about the need of not just putting strongly worded resolutions and forwarding copies of reports to provincial ministers and everyone else under the sun, but to make a concerted effort to work with other municipalities as well to put pressure on the the provincial government to change the Development Charges Act 1997.

Back then, the government changed the rules for municipalities and they were no longer allowed to use development charges (DC’s) to fund capital projects including funding local portions of the hospital.

The current government is on the record saying they wont be making changes and from reports recently other leaders are in agreement that the act shouldn’t be changed.  If this can be changed, the ability of a municipality to fund the local portion of hospital expansions becomes much easier and there is less of an impact on the taxpayer.

We need to be leaders and contact every municipal leader, every Mayor, every Councillor and get them on board to put pressure on the province to make these changes and soon.  There is an election coming up in 2011.

For those of you who were not at the meeting and cant watch on TV COGECO, here is a copy of my submission to council regarding this issue.  Feel free to comment.

Until then, I’ll see you at the doors.

Dear Gord Krantz, Mayor; Members of Town Council, Staff & Members of the public.

The purpose of my writing today is to submit my opinions on the report CORS 058-10 regarding Halton Healthcare Notice of Motion.

As a resident who has lived in Milton for over 7 years now, I along with many others have seen the need to ensure that the healthcare services for our residents are placed at the top of our priority list by the provincial government.  Outlined in the detailed staff report are many of the potential pitfalls that Halton Healthcare Services faces in getting the project started.  Many of the options that we have at our disposal are hinged on the province of Ontario coming to the realization that Milton, Canada’s fastest growing municipality for the last few years, is recognized in their long range goals for expansion.

Expansion of Milton District Hospital is not a new phenomenon whatsoever.  Just recently over half the population of Milton at the time, 35000 plus residents signed a petition to be delivered to the provincial government letting them know Milton should be a priority.  The efforts of those involved with the Friends of Milton Hospital organization should be applauded as many hours, days and weeks went into this movement to let our elected officials at the provincial level know that we need more for the residents of Milton.

I have no qualm with the goal.  I don’t think we can find anyone in our town that would disagree with the notion we need to have a bigger and better healthcare facility for Milton.  Our town is now approaching the 100,000 level and what we have right now is not enough.  This isn’t to say that the individuals, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers at the Milton Hospital are doing a poor job.  They are doing the best they can with the resources they have.

The problem is the provincial government.  They need to make our town’s healthcare facility a priority and fast.  As Mr. Oliver from Halton Healthcare Services stated in the meeting on May 17th, even if they got approval that day for expansion, they are many years away from shovels in the ground.  Our hope is that the provincial government, after their budget deliberations, comes to the same conclusion that Halton Healthcare Services, the Town of Milton and the residents of Milton already know.  Approve the hospital expansion now.

I’m glad that staff also realized we need to put added pressure on the provincial government to change the Development Charges Act of 1997 and allow municipalities to raise funds for the local share of the hospital funding through development charges.  I would add that the town of Milton should urge all municipalities in Ontario to put added pressure on the province to get these changes put through.  All towns and cities in Ontario are either facing the same problems we are or will in the near future and there has to be concerted effort on behalf of ALL municipalities in the province to get these changes made.

This leads me to some concerns about where the funding will come from for the local portion that will be required to get the projects moving.  The face of health care services has changed over the last 20 years.  No longer do local hospitals serve local residents.  Hospitals serve the population in general throughout the region.  Milton residents can take advantage of services at the Burlington, Oakville and even Mississauga area hospitals for different health care related items.  My concern is with burdening the Town of Milton with raising all the funds required for the local portion.  Our tax base isn’t big enough to raise that kind of money in a fixed amount of time.

If we include the “hospital fund” as a budgeted line item for 2010, we run the risk of other high priority projects falling by the wayside and much needed infrastructure such as roads, bridges, etc being delayed.

One of the options listed in the report is to divert Milton Community Funds that were allocated to the Arts Centre to the hospital fund for the next few years.  This would add approximately $500,000 to the fund if it’s done over the next 5 years, which is a fraction of what would be needed.  Milton can do some of the fundraising for the local portion, but it would impede any future long term budgeting that the town needs to do to accommodate other projects, Boyne Survey growth, and Intensification along Main Street.

As we all know, there is immense pressure from the provincial government to grow our population.  Some examples I’ve sighted are the Boyne Survey and the intensification plans faced along Main Street.  The Town doesn’t have any indication from any other level of government on who is going to help, if any, pay for these projects.  Our budgets for the foreseeable future are going to be stretched to the limit.  Adding the addition pressure of the hospital fund, solely on the backs of the taxpayers of Milton will add further problems in long term budgeting.

This proposal should be sent to the Region of Halton for review and have the local portion of the possible expansion handled at that level.  The Town of Milton doesn’t have the resources to raise the much needed funds and if applied at the Regional level and a much greater tax base, the costs can be spread out through the region of Halton as it will be the region of Halton that will benefit from any hospital expansion.

The resources available at the regional level are greater such as debt financing, development charges and at the very last resort tax increases.  The job can get done faster and more efficiently at that level of government without putting the strain on Milton’s long term budgeting issues that we will be facing as growth continues.

I would like to urge Mayor Krantz and members of council to rethink where this motion should be coming from and with the help of our regional councillors urge Halton to look at these plans as they have greater resources to work with at this level and Milton can continue to work out its long range budget issues with regards to growth.

Thank you for your time.

Best regards,

 

Mike Cluett

 

905-878-1327 Phone | 647-888-9032 Cell | mike@mikecluett.ca | www.mikecluett.ca