Residents of the Grand River watershed will be paying more taxes to the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) this year, as the agency’s board last week approved its budget for 2009.
The $31.4-million budget features a $2.3-million increase on last year’s levy, and will work out to an average of $9.06 per taxpayer. Last year, ratepayers forked out, on average, $8.54 to support the agency’s services.
The budget covers the cost of GRCA programs that protect water quality, reduce flood damages, protect natural areas, support responsible development, and which provide outdoor recreation and environmental education.
A large portion of this year’s increase will cover one-time capital projects or special programs, such as source water protection, that are covered entirely by the province, municipalities and other sources, said GRCA spokesperson Dave Schultz.
The GRCA has three main sources of revenue: $9.5 million (33 per cent) will come from watershed municipalities’ water bills or property taxes; $7.5 million (25 per cent) will come from grants, mostly from the provincial government; and $13 million (43 per cent) will come through self-generated revenue such as money from campground fees, planning fees, tree sales, hydroelectricity generation, rental property income and other sources.
Users will see a marginal increase, approximately $0.52, on last year’s fees.
“In some other cases, the Conestogo Dam is an example, that money we’re spending this year is money we saved in previous years,” said Schultz, noting that a good portion of the money that will be spent this year comes from provincial grants.
Woolwich will see a portion of that budget going directly into projects affecting the township.
Among some of the budgeted projects is a $1.4-million upgrade to the Conestogo Dam near Drayton to allow it to safely discharge more water during periods of extremely high flows.
The 2009 budget is broken down into four sections: the base operating budget – $17.8 million (56 per cent) – will cover the ongoing programs run by the GRCA including flood prevention, environmental education, planning advice to municipalities and landowners, operation of trails, forest management and others; special projects will account for $2.7 million (nine per cent) and will include one-time projects and studies that are covered by grants and revenue from outside sources; conservation area operations – $5.7 million (18 per cent) – fees from park users cover the entire operating cost of the GRCA’s 11 active conservation areas; and finally, a key component will be the source water protection program – $5.2 million (17 per cent) – an ongoing project to develop a source water protection plan under the Clean Water Act to implement the recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry.
All costs for this program are paid by the provincial government.