Essex County

Projected operations results for county look favourable

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The County of Essex has projected its results of operations for 2018 and the results are looking favourable.

However, its treasurer notes there is some work to be done to keep everything on course.

Essex County council received a report from director of financial services/treasurer Sandra Zwiers with Zwiers informing county council that corporate operations are projected to be in a surplus position of $625,000 by the end of 2018.

“This report is based on activity as of the end of June,” she told county council last Wednesday night.

In her report to county council, Zwiers said the projections are “predicated on a number of significant assumptions.” Those include favourable resolutions to various outstanding wage-related matters within collective bargaining groups, winter control activities returning to the five-year average level for the early fall and early winter period of 2018, social service caseloads and social housing costs remaining favourable, no significant tax write-offs and improved returns on investments within Essex County’s investment portfolio.

“There are no deficits,” she said. “All departments are performing well.”

The community services department is forecast to have no surplus or deficit, with Zwiers’ report noting county council approved an increase in the per diem rate for Housing with Supports’ contracted service providers.

“This recommendation matched the approval made by the City of Windsor, effective April 1, 2018 and April 1, 2019,” the report stated. “Subsequent to these council approvals, the Corporation (of the County of Essex) and the City of Windsor have been working to confirm the flow of funds and revised funding levels. The Corporation is currently awaiting confirmation of those details from the City in order to better ascertain the impacts these funding changes will have on our operations.”

The Sun Parlor Home in Leamington is projected to carry a $60,000 positive variance with that being attributed to additional subsidies being passed after the passing of the 2018 budget.

“The largest contributor to increased subsidy levels relates to funding our internal behavioral supports program (approximately $40,000),” Zwiers stated in her report to county council. “Savings in life enrichment and food and nutritional programs have also been identified as marginal factors contributing to the projected surplus in long-term care services.”

There are no surpluses or deficits forecast for the Emergency Medical Services (EMS), library services, general government or infrastructure services. Regarding the latter, Zwiers reported that department was originally projected to be in a surplus position of $650,000 but county council was presented a report to address an emergency culvert repair on County Road 23, near Essex.

The external commitments department is projected to have a surplus position of $565,000 at the end of the calendar year.

“Estimates by the City of Windsor indicate a savings in social assistance of $495,000,” she wrote, adding Ontario Works caseloads are trending lower than budget. There are also savings in social housing of $70,000, Zwiers added, due to a reduction in subsidy payments.

“The Corporation’s projected financial position is based on six months of activity with significant uncertainty regarding budget performance for social services, social housing, Emergency Medical Services, transportation services, investment earnings and outstanding contract/wage settlements and pay/internal equity adjustments,” Zwiers concluded. “Variance from projections in anyone of these operations could have a significant impact on the Corporation’s financial position for 2018. Financial services, with the assistance of all departments, continue to look for opportunities for reductions and cost savings and will carefully monitor operations and report accordingly.”

Bain cites teamwork and collaboration as successes for county in final warden’s luncheon

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Essex County Warden Tom Bain championed teamwork, collaboration and the region’s successes during his annual “Warden’s Luncheon” address.

The 11th annual “Warden’s Luncheon” was held last Friday afternoon at the Ciociaro Club with Bain noting there is “a new sense of vitality” in Essex County. Bain said that the area is known for its creativity, innovation, ingenuity and perseverance, and that shows in the unemployment figures. The unemployment rate in the area was 9.4 per cent in early 2015 and said it is now at 4.9 per cent, “one of the lowest in the province.”

The warden pointed out his belief that municipalities don’t create jobs but can create the conditions where economic improvement is possible.

One of the issues Bain addressed was the expansion of energy capacity in the region and “thankfully, this is finally getting addressed.” One issue that is not getting addressed is the expansion of Highway 3 from Essex to Leamington. Bain stated that it is a vital gateway for the shipment of agricultural products and called the widening of the highway “a priority for county council.”

There are also safety concerns with Highway 3 as Bain referenced the volume of traffic that uses that roadway.

“This leads to a number of accidents and, sadly, fatalities,” said Bain.

The county is in solid financial shape, he continued, noting Standard and Poor’s has given the county a AA+ credit rating, the highest possible for a municipality in Ontario.

Warden Tom Bain gestures during his address at the Windsor-Essex Chamber of Commerce’s “Warden’s Luncheon” last Friday. It was Bain’s final luncheon as Essex County warden.

“This long-term financial vision is credited to county council and administration,” said Bain.

Essex County has also been able to control tax increases, he added.

“Over the past 15 years, the CPI (Consumer Price Index) has increased on average 1.8 per cent per year,” said Bain. “Over the same period of time, our county tax rate has increased on average 1.3 per cent per year.”

Those increases come despite $440 million in roadway expansion, $171 million in new trail projects and $100 million committed for the county’s share of the new mega-hospital. The hospital, he added, went through a “fair and thorough” site selection process.

The mega-hospital was one of the examples listed by Bain of Essex County’s willingness to collaborate. He said the SWIFT project, which aims to bring fibre optic high-speed internet to the region, is another example while also noting environmental gains by working with ERCA and economic gains by working with the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Commission (WEEDC).

Essex County is also bidding to jointly host Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conferences with Windsor up to four times between 2021-24, something Bain said could bring 2,600 and $3 million in spinoff revenue to the region.

Municipalities can’t ignore change and have to work together, he believed, but can control how they react to change.

“In today’s day and age, the way we have been doing business is no longer feasible or reasonable,” he said, touting the benefits of teamwork and collaboration between municipalities.

Bain said he is proud of the work that has been done around the county council table and of the work still to come.

“We have such a good team here,” he said. “The team has worked together on so many things. The results are there and I’m so proud of that and proud of our team.”

In this municipal election year, he advised candidates to avoid the trappings of short-term gains and look long-term.

Bain indicated that while he is not running for another term as warden, he is looking at running for re-election as mayor in Lakeshore. He is the longest serving warden in Ontario, having been in the position since 2010. He was also warden in 1993. Bain has been a municipal politician since 1978, when he was first elected as a councillor in the former Rochester Township.

The luncheon was presented by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce with Libro Credit Union being the main sponsor.

County council releases statement of councillor remuneration

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Essex County council has released its statement of council remuneration for 2017.

There was no surprise as to who was on top, with Warden Tom Bain earning a salary of $66,228.72 and a total remuneration of $92,942.09. The total remuneration factors in indemnities, mileage, conference and meeting expenditures. Bain is also the mayor of Lakeshore.

The remaining members of county council earned salaries of $9,173.76 with the exception of LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya who, as deputy warden, had a salary of $11,167.23.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo saw his remuneration total be $14,172.27 while Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale’s total ended up at $14,946.39.

Essex Mayor Ron McDermott’s 2017 remuneration total was $14,548.90 while Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche had a total remuneration amount of $16,386.02.

The total remuneration for Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos in 2017 was $17,425.16. Deputy Mayor Gord Queen’s total remuneration was $15,407.44.

Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Al Fazio’s total remuneration for 2017 was $13,282.29.

In addition to his deputy warden’s salary, Antaya’s total remuneration was $17,053.11. LaSalle Deputy Mayor Marc Bondy had a total remuneration of $13,837.70.

Leamington Mayor John Paterson had the lowest total remuneration total for 2017, with his total being $12,997.58. Deputy Mayor Hilda MacDonald’s total remuneration for 2017 was $13,599.39.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara’s total remuneration amounted to $20,507.26 while Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti came in at $14,118.54.

In all, county council members’ total salaries amounted to $187,481.07 for 2017 with a total remuneration amounting to $291.224.14.

Committee members had a total remuneration total of $18,067.37 during the 2017 calendar year.

Nurse practitioner-led clinic coming to Amherstburg?

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Could a nurse-practitioner (NP)-led clinic be coming to Amherstburg?

There are roughly 25 in the province with NP-led clinics within the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) currently being in Essex, Lakeshore and Sarnia, said Pauline Gemmell, executive director of the Essex County Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic, located on Victoria Ave. in the Town of Essex.

There is also an outreach clinic in Windsor, she added.

“They are led by nurse practitioners. There are no physicians other than collaborative doctors,” explained Gemmell. “Nurse practitioners will see you, do physicals, diagnose you and order tests. It’s a unique model of care.”

There is the possibility that a similar clinic could come to Amherstburg, said Gemmell, and she helped write the business case for it.

“We have a lot of interest and support from the residents of the Town of Amherstburg. Town council passed a resolution at their Oct. 23 meeting to have CAO John Miceli work with me to develop the business case,” said Gemmell. “One of the most important things is to make sure the community is behind it.”

According to Gemmell, many seniors in the community have said they would love to have an NP clinic within the community.

“I have letters of endorsement from the Golden Age Club, the Amherstburg Family Health Team, pharmacists, business owners, (Essex-Windsor) EMS Chief Bruce Krauter, police chief Tim Berthiaume, Amherstburg’s mayor, former deputy mayor, the physician recruiter Joan Mavrinac, Chamber of Commerce and more,” she said.

Two public meetings are scheduled on the matter, the first being Feb. 28 at town hall from 5-6:30 p.m. The second is planned for March 2 in the Libro Centre’s “Energy Zone” room from 10-11:30 a.m.

“It’s good to know what the community thinks,” said Gemmell. “Community consultation is always a good idea.”

The Essex County Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic in Essex could expand to Amherstburg. Public consultations are planned for Feb. 28 at town hall and March 2 at the Libro Centre.

Gemmell believes that the town’s rising senior population could play a factor.

“I think one of the things that the ministry may be interested in seeing is how engaged the community is in bringing health care to the community. Amherstburg’s senior population over the age of 65 is rising,” she said. “Currently 20 per cent of the population is over 65 and this is expected to increase to 25 per cent over the next three years.”

Gemmell said, if the community wants a NP-led clinic and the province approves it, it would run very similarly to the one in Essex. She added it would even operate under the same board of directors.

“It works really well (in Essex),” said Gemmell, who is an Amherstburg resident.

It could work well in Amherstburg as well, she added.

“We have a safe community with a lot of historical interest and seniors are interested in retiring there. A good local municipal police service along with excellent health care delivered by a team of nurse practitioners is the ideal scenario for a happy, safe and healthy retirement,” she said.

The Essex and Windsor clinics have a total of four nurse practitioners (NPs), a social worker, registered dietitian, registered practical nurses, registered nurses, physiotherapist, chiropractor, and a massage therapist. All services are paid for by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, said Gemmell.

“The NP clinic is led by nurse practitioners who practice in a team based model, “she noted. “We have some unique services such as health promotion programs which are based on identified patient needs, home visits for patients identified by the NP as being at risk, diabetes education classes etc. Our strength is in our collaborations within our team and with the external organizations that we work with for the benefit of our patients.”

Essex County budget calls for 1.54% tax increase

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

The 2018 budget has been approved by Essex County council unanimously and it comes with a 1.54 per cent tax increase.

“I think it’s great news for the county,” said County of Essex Warden Tom Bain. “I think it just shows the work that’s been done in the last 10, 15 years that we’ve gotten ourselves at a point now where we have an excellent base as far as reserves are concerned and we are able to meet any needs that come along, as far as infrastructure goes. I’m really pleased with that small increase.”

The 1.54 per cent translates into a $14.46 increase on a home valued at $200,000.

The total county operating budget requirements have increased to $95,645,480. There is a $600,000 increase in the county’s commitment to the new Windsor-Essex Hospital System levy, which will be a repeating trend until 2025. The municipal contribution is $200 million over 10 years, with the county contribution being $90-$95 million.

Other highlights of the budget include a 1.5 per cent levy increase for capital project funding valued at $1,345,500, an incremental increase to rehabilitation program valued at $420,000, an incremental increase to the CWATS program valued at $100,000 and the Civic Centre acquisition and equipment and machinery amortization valued at $350,000. For county construction, the 2018 budget also highlights a total expenditure level of $35,793,090. As for county maintenance, some of the highlights include the program to replace the HPS lighting with LED, five bridge repairs and small culvert replacements, and the continued focus on upgrading line painting, CWATS maintenance and roadside operations. The county has also made the commitment to a $2.8 million equipment acquisition, which includes two tandem dump trucks, a 1.5 tom dump truck, three pick ups, a tractor with a lawn mower, a tandem truck hoist and a mini excavator.

“When it comes to increases, my favorite question is ‘why do you want to raise taxes?’” explained Amherstburg mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We don’t want to raise taxes. We have to raise taxes to compensate for our costs, the same as everyone else. It is an increase but I think it’s a very reasonable increase, right in line with the cost of living.”

The Essex County Library board also brought forth some changes in their budget. They were approved for an increase from $4,829,090 in 2017, to $5,222,210 projected for 2018, an 8.1 per cent increase. Some of the reasoning for their increase included legal fees and administrative office budget overages in the 2017 year due to the work disruption, and looking to programming and outreach changes and wage and benefit increases in 2018.

All matters discussed during the county council meeting Dec. 6 were approved, including approving the corporate reserve strategy plan to transfer $2 million from the rate stabilization reserve to the capital reserve, which was a matter deferred from council Sept. 6.

The 2018 budget for the Essex-Windsor EMS, which included a matter that was also deferred Nov. 1 involving the development of a master plan and enhancing their response times, was also approved.

“When you get to this level, I think everything is a little more clear, the numbers are tight, and I would say administration does a pretty good job of laying out exactly what is required which leaves not a whole lot of questions,” said DiCarlo. “I can’t imagine what you would disagree with because it’s so focused on roads and services and so when you break it all down, it’s very accountable.”