Feb. 5, 2020, Simcoe, ON – Faced with significant financial issues – compounded by a change in the Provincial funding formula for public health – Norfolk County is restructuring in a number of areas to reduce the financial pressures being placed on taxpayers.
The changes come after what has been described as one of the toughest budgets Norfolk has ever considered. They are part of a multi-year plan to fix the County’s extensive financial issues, stemming from a range of past actions – including previous budget commitments, skyrocketing debt payments and unrealistic revenue and spending estimates – over which the current Council had little control.
These past actions – including the consistent pattern of expenses outstripping revenues – has left Norfolk County with approximately $81M in debt.
Norfolk’s financial situation was made worse when the Ontario government announced last year that it was changing the provincial/municipal public health cost-sharing arrangement from 75%/25% to 70%/30%.
To address the situation, Council made a number of difficult decisions during last week’s budget deliberations, including closing museums and restructuring in Corporate Services and (in the face of these Provincial changes) Health and Social Services.
The changes will result in the elimination of four non-union, full-time equivalent positions (FTEs) across the corporation, one of which is currently vacant.
A further 5.4 union FTEs have also been reduced, resulting in two part-time employees in Health and Social Services being in a layoff position.
Earlier this week, Norfolk County restructured its Tourism and Economic Development department, eliminating two non-union positions.
“These were incredibly difficult decisions,” says Mayor Kristal Chopp. “But this Council inherited some very significant financial issues, and we’ve made it a priority to address them. By making these changes, we’re putting Norfolk County back on the road toward financial sustainability.”
The changes in Health and Social Services are not expected to have an impact on the public, as non-mandatory services are being transitioned to community partners.
These include one-on-one sexual health services and smoking cessation programs. Sexual health services provided in schools will continue.
Health and Social Services will also be revising the service-delivery model for its Family Home Visitor program.
“We did our best to minimize the impact these changes would have on staff, but at the end of the day, we need to deliver services to the community more efficiently,” says Marlene Miranda, General Manager of Health and Social Services and Chief Nursing Officer. “That’s why we’re working closely with our community partners to ensure residents in Haldimand and Norfolk will continue to have the supports they need to live healthy, happy lives.”
The Norfolk Arts Centre will be closed starting Feb. 6. Its operations will be moved to the Eva Brook Donly Museum over the next number of months.
Restructuring in Corporate Services will result in a more streamlined provision of services at the Provincial Offences Administration court.
Council approved a range of cost-cutting options put forth by staff during budget deliberations, including:
- Permanently closing the ice at the Simcoe Rec Centre, with a plan to move summer ice to the Waterford Tricenturena
- Soliciting interest from the private sector or community groups in running municipal arenas (should this be unsuccessful, Norfolk will close an additional arena in September 2020)
- Moving seniors from the Simcoe Seniors Centre on Pond Street to the Simcoe Rec Centre (addressing a long-standing request by seniors to vacate the aging building)
- Declaring the Simcoe Seniors Centre building surplus and offering it for sale
- Closing the Teeterville Pioneer Museum and Teeterville Women’s Institute
- Amalgamating the Norfolk Arts Centre and archives in the current Eva Brook Donly Museum building, with the Eva Brook Donly’s artifact collection to be absorbed by remaining museums
- Reducing winter maintenance to be in line with minimum provincial standards
- Moving away from costly print advertising, in favour of more cost-effective digital tools
These are in addition to a number of other budget-shrinking decisions Council made over the course of two days.