Petawawa's Budget Dilemma: Where's The Grant?

There's a big question mark for Petawawa Town Council as they try to set the town's 2019 budget and tax increase later this week.

The province is reviewing a grant program that usually provides the town hundreds of thousands of dollars to help pay for programs and services — the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund.

The finance minister says it’s under the microscope as the government tries to get a handle on spending because of Ontario's deficit and debt.

But Mayor Bob Sweet told town council on Monday night he’s very concerned, because the town’s share of the grant program has been dwindling in recent years.

Sweet says at one point the town's grant from the fund was close to $1.4 million, but if it's reduced again at the same pace it's been cut in recent years, the amount will be less than $400,000.

"The community has lost a million dollars in funding .. which is absolutely key and essential to do the things we know we have to do”, Sweet told reporters after the meeting.

He says the money is essential because there are no strings attached to it, meaning the town has been able to use it for various projects, such as road maintenance, street and sidewalk clearing, and programs at the Civic Centre and library.

Sweet says without the grant money, it’ll be hard to maintain services without raising taxes more. 

"We cannot continue to go down this road and lose all these funds and still be expected to deliver a quality level of service without increasing the tax rate .. it’s as simple as that”, Sweet said.

A letter from the Finance Minister to the town announcing the review doesn't mention any numbers, but describes in great length the work the government is doing to get a handle on the province's finances, and asks muncipal leaders to be partners in that effort.

The letter acknowledges that communities are preparing their budgets and need answers about the fund, promising to have those numbers ready soon.

Petawawa Council sits down on Thursday morning to try to finalize its 2019 budget and tax increase.