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Health board approves $15.5 million budget

By Makala Chapman [1]

BELLEVILLE –  The municipalities that make up the Hastings Prince Edward Public Health Unit [2] will have to cover $3.3 million of this year’s $15.5 million budget, says the committee’s finance chair, Jack Miller.

The province’s ministry of health traditionally covers 75 per cent of the budget while the municipalities cover the other 25 per cent.

But due to a provincial revenue freeze, Miller shared that the financial amount received this year will be similar to previous years, which could cause financial strain.

“This is the third year we are getting essentially the same,” he said. “There’s a little more pressure on municipalities to make up the difference that you’re going to encounter with inflation.”

The province of Ontario mandates the budget, which goes towards programs that are offered through the board of health.

It also includes salaries for food inspectors, public nurses and more.

But, despite the 0.3 per cent increase from last year’s budget, Miller said this year’s numbers are manageable.

“From a financial perspective, the fact that we’ve been able to hold it to within 1 per cent, I think, should meet with approval from most municipalities,” Miller said.

Each of the municipalities will now deal with their portion of the overall cost at their own budget meetings this year.

“Essentially it’s like sending out a bill and each of the municipalities will pay it back to the health unit,” said Miller.

Terry McGuigan, chair of the board, says he was pleased that the board was able to pass the budget but there are some concerns to keep an eye on in the future.

“A 1 per cent increase when you’re faced with costs that continue to escalate presents a challenge for us to maintain the programs that we have,” he said, “but we’re confident that we can continue, at least for 2017 at the spending level that we’ve set.”

The next health board meeting is set for March 1.