Essex Region – The Essex Region Conservation Authority has unanimously approved its 2021 Budget following consultation and review with its Finance and Audit Advisory Board, the full Authority Board and additionally, circulated to each of the Authority’s governing municipalities for distribution to respective municipal councils. The budget totals just over $10 million, and includes a levy request of $3,454,619, representing a 2% increase from 2020. This is equivalent to $10.75 per person, an increase of 26 cents from 2020 and just under $24 per household, based on a $300,000 current value assessment.
Addressing flood and erosion issues related to high lake levels, significant rainfall events and climate change; completing a floodplain prioritization study; restoring over 125 acres of natural habitat; completing the new John R. Park Homestead Heritage Centre; and completing a significant habitat restoration and shoreline protection project on Pêche Island, in partnership with the City of Windsor are just some of the top priorities ERCA has outlined for 2021. Transforming business processes to improve service delivery, and updating technology infrastructure, network security and information systems are also key projects.
The approved budget responds to the changes to Conservation Authorities Act included in Bill 229, which have widespread and significant implications for operations and program delivery with provincially-required separation of services into mandatory and non-mandatory categories. The budget directly addresses the Province’s directive of increased accountability and transparency, and proactively includes new analysis relating to categories of services, identification of staffing complements and funding sources for all operating activities.
Over the past month, budget presentations were made to 8 of 9 municipal councils, with the ninth presentation scheduled in the coming weeks. “The mandatory programs identified by the Act are now quite limited and confined to risks of natural hazards; conservation and management of lands; Drinking Water Source Protection; and other duties and responsibilities under other legislation,” explained Tim Byrne, CAO.
By 2022, it is anticipated that the Authority will need to obtain funding agreements with municipalities where municipal support is needed to fund any non-mandatory services.
“Programs such as tree planting, habitat restoration projects, water quality monitoring, education programs, museum operations of the John R. Park Homestead, trail development and climate change resiliency are just some of the currently identified non-mandatory program areas that will require these types of agreements,” Byrne added.
It’s widely recognized that Conservation Authorities play a critical role in protecting our environment and natural heritage, mitigating hazards, and supporting municipal partners by providing an environmental, conservation and risk assessment lens on development applications.
“In my opinion, the types of resource management programming offered by ERCA are best provided regionally, on a watershed basis,” said ERCA Chair Tania Jobin. “No one municipal jurisdiction can manage the suite of issues that impact us such as flooding, threats of active coastal and riverine erosion, and deforestation. These resource management programs would struggle to succeed without environmental education for all ages, private land reforestation and restoration activities, land acquisition, and public access to natural areas. The mechanisms to address these are best managed collaboratively, and the most efficient and effective path forward will be to ensure the critically important work of making our region resilient and sustainable continues to be undertaken on an integrated watershed-management basis.”
The Essex Region Conservation Authority is a public sector organization established by the Province in 1973, and governed by local municipalities, to provide for the organization and delivery of programs and services that further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources in watersheds in Ontario.