“We’re trying to budget in very, very difficult times.”
That from Ed Pearce, Algoma Public Health (APH) Finance & Audit Committee (F&AC) chair, as the APH board approved the health unit’s 2021 budget Wednesday.
“We can’t figure out exactly which way the pandemic is going to go. We’re not quite sure what Mr. Ford (Ontario Premier Doug Ford) is going to announce every Friday as he steps up to the microphone. Changes that are coming to the overall structure of public health going forward, it’s all going to be very, very difficult...it’s very, very important that we keep a tight rein on the finances, that we know exactly what they are,” Pearce said.
The board approved the APH 2021 budget for mandatory programs and expenses of $15,668,394, a 1.8 per cent increase over 2020.
The budget includes $808,535 in expected provincial one-time mitigation funding to help with the previously announced transition of the health unit’s cost-sharing formula to 70 per cent provincial funding and 30 per cent municipal funding ($1,037,800 in mitigation funding for 2020 and 2021 combined).
In what Pearce described as “what I know will be a bit contentious” action, APH management, in consultation with the F&AC, recommended a seven per cent, or $249,146 increase, in the municipal levy (approved by the board Wednesday).
The budget includes:
- $98,000 in additional 100 per cent provincial base funding for Unorganized Territories and Indigenous Communities
- A full year of 100 per cent provincial base funding for the Ontario Senior Dental program, resulting in an additional $174,475 in funding
- Salary increases from collective bargaining agreements
- Salary increases for non-union employees and management
Travel expenses for APH staff are projected to decrease by 17 per cent (or $34,091) from 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is projected staff will travel less than in 2020.
APH program promotion expenses are expected to go down by 36.5 per cent (or $83,900) compared to 2020. The health unit has put its smoking prevention and cessation media campaign on hold to focus more on cutting the spread of COVID-19.
In other APH business arising from Wednesday’s meeting, the board passed a resolution calling on the federal government to transform and establish the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (or CERB, designed to help Canadians financially reeling from job/income loss as a result of COVID-19) into a basic income during the pandemic and beyond.
Such a move, the board stated, would ease poverty, food insecurity and improve the general health of Canadians.
Letters will be sent to both federal and provincial governments in support of a basic income, as well as northeastern Ontario MPs, the Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario, other Ontario boards of health, the Sault Ste. Marie Poverty Reduction Round Table and the North Channel Poverty Network.