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What happens when the fund runs dry?

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Municipalities may be scrambling with the downloading of services now but some are looking to the turn of the century when the province’s special circumstances funds run out.

That $75-million provincial fund is in place for 1998 and ’99 only. After that, said Janis Tomkinson with the Ministry of Finance’s communications department, municipalities will have to realize that savings.

“I believe so,” she said from Toronto yesterday, but stressed the province would continue the $600 million Community Reinvestment Fund.

“The details of the Community Reinvestment Fund after 1999 haven’t fully been set in stone yet,” she admitted. “[But] it should be revenue-neutral and they shouldn’t be out of pocket.”

But municipalities are wondering how they will make that cut—on top of the 1.7 percent reduction they are expected to find this year from their 1996 budgets.

“That’s the other big question,” noted La Vallee Clerk Laurie Witherspoon.

For Fort Frances, that will mean finding another $482,000 in savings even though it started paying $3.15 million more for “downloaded” services beginning this year.

On top of that, the town lost its $2 million support grant and must make a further reduction of $367,000 (a 1.7 percent reduction of its 1996 budget), bringing the total cost of the “download” to $4.91 million.

On the funding side, the town has a $561,000 residential education tax room, along with $3.86 million from the Community Reinvestment Fund and $482,000 in special transition assistance.

The latter disappears at the end of 1999.

“I think our only hope is that there might be an election,” noted Fort Frances CAO Bill Naturkach.

For smaller townships such as Lake of the Woods and Dawson, they will need to come up with $44,000 and $74,000 in savings respectively.

To help ease the burden, Alberton Clerk Faye Flatt felt it might be a wise move to increase taxes slightly this year and next even though this year’s download looks like it could be “revenue-neutral,” or close to it.

“I would like to see us put aside a reserve so that we don’t get hit so hard,” she noted, but stressed that still needed to be discussed by council.

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