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Council wary of ambulance levy

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In anticipation of increased land ambulance costs if the Rainy River Health Centre emergency room has to close due to a lack of doctors, the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board is having district municipalities pay a supplemental levy.

The town’s share of this levy is $82,863.83 for 2012. The combined levy for municipalities and the unincorporated areas is $281,228.65.

While the town has agreed to pay up, it will be keeping tabs on how much it pays and ensuring the supplemental levy remains distinct from its normal levy, Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig said at Monday’s budget meeting.

“I think we should stress the interim nature of this,” he remarked.

“As a matter of fact, when we pay them, we should specifically request that it’s referred to . . . as a supplemental levy because my fear, like a lot of things that happen over there, is it’ll just get blended and that will be the end of the story, whether they get another [doctor] in Rainy River or not,” McCaig warned.

McCaig said the town has to be supportive of getting another doctor in Rainy River, noting it “is something that is definitely to our benefit. It’s going to reduce our costs with DSSAB.”

Council agreed the supplemental levy should not be paid through taxation, but instead by using the town’s 2011 surplus.

Coun. Paul Ryan said

DSSAB refers to the supplemental levy being necessary due to “anticipated” increased costs in land ambulance tied to the “possible” closure of the Rainy River ER.

“I can’t see us starting to be billed for seven grand [a month] or whatever it is right off the bat when it hasn’t closed yet,” he remarked.

“I agree we bring the [surplus] forward from last year to cover it, in case we are billed for it,” added Coun. Ryan.

“But right now, the Ministry of Health has a responsibility here, too. Bring in a locum or whatever it takes.”

Coun. John Albanese said he feels Health minister Deb Matthews and local MPP Sarah Campbell are working hard to address the doctor crisis in Rainy River, adding “it would be beneficial for our whole catchment area” to get a new physician there.

Council directed McCaig to write a letter to DSSAB CAO Dan McCormick, clearly stating that in the future, if the doctor shortage in Rainy River is rectified, council expects any increase in land ambulance costs that have been initiated because of the shortage go down again.

“When they get the situation that they desire in Rainy River, in terms of doctors, we want the extra costs attributable to this supplemental levy to go away,” stressed McCaig.

Tax increase

Meanwhile, the 2012 budget is all but finalized and it looks like some residential taxpayers will see an increase of 2.49 percent.

“Our budget went very well this year,” Mayor Roy Avis said Tuesday.

“We’re pretty much under the cost of living.

“I think administration did a real good job working with council,” he added.

“In these economic time, we put a very good budget together.”

Other increases will be as follows:

  • Multi-residential—2.69 percent;
  • Commercial—1.02 percent;
  • Industrial—1.1 percent;
  • Large industrial—1.23 percent;
  • Pipeline—2.165 percent; and
  • Farmland—2.49 percent.

The new levies have been adjusted to generate the $244,790 needed to balance the town’s 2012 operating budget.

Most property owners’ assessment values have been going up in recent years, as determined by the Municipal Property Assessment Corp.

This means that property owners in each of these classes will see an increase on their tax bills.

However, due to a decrease in the education tax rate, some property owners may see an increase in levy but a decrease in the amount of dollars paid.

For example, if a residential property owner’s assessment is staying the same as last year, their tax levy actually would drop $5.54 per $100,000 worth of assessment.

Under the same circumstances, multi-residential will go up $90.93 per $100,000 while commercial will go down $99.32 per $100,000.

Industrial would go down $7.16 per $100,000 while large industrial would go up $44.59 per $100,000.

Pipeline would go down $52.44 per $100,000, with farmland going down $1.39 per $100,000.

More detailed information about the impact of the levy increase will be presented at a public meeting March 26.

That same day, council will vote on bylaws to pass the estimates and accompanying tax rates to support the municipal levy.

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