Housing renewal a concern in services board budget

By Ally Dunham

Kenora District Services Board (KDSB) Committee of the Whole met on Nov. 17 for the first crack at the 2012 budget presentation.

One of the biggest matters affecting KDSB is the declining state of the housing units, which are in constant need of upkeep and repair.

A housing renewal financing plan has been drafted as part of the budget, which will reflect the use of reserves to update and maintain the housing units. The plan is a ten-year draft, and according to KDSB Chair, Phil Vinet, the group showed consensus to the idea.

“Some of the costs are contributed to the housing stock, how it’s getting old and it needs to be fixed. It’s not as if we can just dispose of these assets. We have to maintain them and this method used up some reserve money to do it,” said Vinet. “I went around the group and made sure everyone had their say, and it was pretty consensus driven. It’s a long-term approach to a problem that is not going to go away.”

Although some members expressed concern about using up the reserves, Chief Administrative Officer, Dan McNeill said, “The reserves were created to be used for specific purposes. We’ll find a balance there.”

All departments of KDSB, including Northwest EMS, housing, Ontario Works and child care are struggling to maintain a reasonable budget, without costing too much to the taxpayers, but government funding is not at a level to make this accomplishment easy.

“These aren’t easy times in northwestern Ontario and we’ve got to make sure we’re really spending the hard-earned tax dollars very, very wisely,” said Vinet. “Just because the economy tanks, in our line of business, that generally means an increase in expense. That’s just the nature of our business.”

One of the other major changes happening within the KDSB board is the addition of “Integrated Services”. Integration was defined as single stop for clients, tenants and residents of Ontario Works, Housing and Child Carewith cross utilization and training — an effort to make the local system work more efficiently and achieve improved outcomes for clients.

The Manager of Children’s Services’ role was expanded to include the management of the new department and Integrated Services also expanded to include property clerks and reception duties.

KDSB has also recently committed to a “Zero-Based Budgeting” (ZBB) process which means that everything that is to be included in the budget must be considered and justified. Before ZBB can take place however, there has to be an overall plan of where the organization is and where they hope to go and achieve.

The 2012 draft budget will be recommended to the Board by the Committee of the Whole at the December regular board meeting, where it should see the stamp of approval.


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