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Council discussed the $50,000 request for doctor recruitment and retention. The WN General Hospital had asked for double their regular recruitment funding, from $20K to $40k, while maintaining their retention funding of $5K. The request was denied, council opting to maintain the status quo of $25K. The WN Community Health Centre asked for one-time funding of $10K to assist in doctor recruitment, and that request was approved.
Yvon Duhaime asked what would happen if other institutions asked for money to hire people. “I have a hard time with this. We’ve done well, seen a lot of new doctors come into the community…” He suggested the barrier to attracting and keeping medical staff might not be money. “Maybe making their jobs a happy place to be? A good place to work? … We’ve been doing this for years.” He suggested the status quo of $25K to WNGH and only $5K to the Community Health Centre.
Mayor Savage countered that without excellent health services in place, economic development is stifled. “If you can have good health services, you can attract other [business].” Coun. Jamie Restoule agreed, saying, “We’ve been successful attracting new physicians and we’re having senior physicians retiring. …I support what is presented to us.” Both the mayor and councillor Restoule indicated they sit on the WNGH Doctor Recruitment and Retention Committee.
With the further reduction of $20K in the proposed budget, Barbeau announced “You’re now at a 2.17% general levy increase.”
by Isabel Mosseler
Further budget deliberations held on February 21 saw the West Nipissing tax hike projection decrease from 6.68% to 2.17%, with an ease not seen in previous years as CAO Jay Barbeau sliced through budget requests, found savings and recommended fund transfers from areas such as West Nipissing Power Generation. Barbeau opened the session by saying that typically, council would deliberate over expenditures, starting at the opening gambit of 6.68% and whittling back. However, he almost presented a fait accompli after council had made it clear they favoured an increase closer to 2%, giving them what they wanted from the onset of the meeting.
“We had fairly healthy surpluses… Our reserve position is very high,” he noted. He said that in the past, Water & Sewer had relied on a $160K transfer of funds from WN Power Generation, a corporation whose profit goes back to the municipality. “They are in a healthy position this year; I don’t want to remove the full $160K, but we’re going to reduce the dependency on PowerGen down to $100K, so there’s an additional $60K there.”
Adding the $500K budget surplus from 2017 to the $60K transfer, the tax levy increase could be reduced to 3%, said Barbeau. Further, he noted that Public Works had a reduction in vehicle needs; there was a $25K restitution from one of the legal proceedings the municipality has been engaged in; and the Fire Department request for a $50K increase was reduced to $25K. “If you did that, it means a 2.33% levy increase,” he summed up.