What to Do with $8.1 Million
Date: Thursday, March 24, 2011 | Category: Hamilton Issues
A tweet from the Spectator late last evening caught my eye.
The Ontario government “has come through again with funding for Hamilton to offset its social service costs.”
The tweet took me to a story where Mayor Bratina called this $8.1 million transfer “very good news.” According to the story the Mayor believes the money is coming because “the city has a good relationship with the provincial government.”
There is no doubt it is desirable to have good relationships with senior levels of government but let’s look at what this transfer really is.
It comes from the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF). OMPF replaced the Community Reinvestment Fund as the province’s main transfer payment to municipalities in 2005.
Here’s how it works: In the 2009 budget year the city made projections on what their social assistance and policing costs would be in the upcoming year. Those projections have finally been rationalized against the actual costs and two years later the province has coughed up the difference between budgeted and actual costs. It works out to $8,100,000.
It is, of course, a lot more complicated than this explanation but to say the province has “come through” is kind of misleading – they’ve really just given the city what it is entitled to.
The more important issue is what will happen to this money.
In a similar position last year Councillors put virtually all the 2008 reconciled dollars ($3.1 million) into sidewalks. Some of us thought this was wrong.
Earlier this month a staff report, that was written before the actual reconciled amount was known, recommended that half of the expected transfer should go to social services and half to unallocated capital (i.e., things like sidewalks).
There is a good case to be made for all these monies going to social services.
Dollars could be allocated to support food banks, provide nutritional supplements for Ontario Works participants, enhance housing allowances to name just a few possible uses.
I’m hoping we can have a good public dialogue on this and get more than just City Council involved in deciding how the dollars get allocated.
What do you think?