In this era of belt-tightening budgets, the Grand River Conservation Authority has decided to stand pat on their 2012 budget, calling for a slight reduction in total spending. Passed by the GRCA board on Feb. 24, the 2012 budget will be $32.8 million, slightly lower than 2011’s budget of $33.6 million. The board consists of 26 members appointed by municipalities across the watershed.
“As we were going through draft versions of the budget at the tail end of last year and the beginning of this year we were getting a lot of feedback from our municipal representatives and municipalities throughout the watershed, saying that the closer to a minimal increase the better,” said Cam Linwood, communications coordinator at the GRCA.
Much of the reduction in the budget is the result of the scheduled reduction in provincial grants for the Drinking Water Source Protection Program. Last year the province contributed $3.2 million to the project, and that number will fall to $2.6 million this year.
The charges applied to municipalities will rise by approximately three per cent compared to 2011 with about $9.75 million, or 30 per cent of total expenditures, coming from residents of the watershed through their local property taxes or their municipal water bills. The total cost to each resident works out to about $10.05.
The GRCA also collects about $13.8 million in self-generated revenues from camping and other service fees, as well as land rentals, hydroelectricity, payments from school boards for educational programming, and donations to the Grand River Conservation Foundation.
Government grants account for about $7.1 million and cover core programs such as flood warnings and dam maintenance, and the remainder of the budget (approximately $2 million) comes from GRCA reserve funds comprised of money set aside in previous years.
Despite the drop in funding, the GRCA still has numerous projects on tap for 2012, including the reconstruction of the Drimmie Dam in Elora, scheduled to cost $1.1 million with the province contributing half and the Township of Centre Wellington paying $200,000. Other projects include restoration programs at Conestogo Lake ($110,000) and the Luther Marsh Wildlife Management Area ($178,000) and the design if an emergency spillway at Conestogo Dam ($150,000).
The GRCA is also confident that visitors to the parks will not experience any drop in service, and upwards of a million paid visits are made to GRCA parks throughout the year. “The parks are self-funded. They don’t receive any fees from levees,” said Linwood. “They are 100 per cent user pay, so any person who is visiting a park won’t see a decrease in quality or level of service.”