NEMI lobbys province for additional funding for POA to offset current deficit

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MANITOULIN—While at least three Manitoulin Island municipalities have so far approved paying its share of the cash flow shortage being encountered by the Manitoulin Provincial Offences  Administration officers (POA), council for the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (NEMI) will also be lobbying the province for additional funding.

“The POA has a current deficit of $14,780 and that is bad enough, but if the projected deficit is $45,000 for 2020-2021, than that is an even bigger problem. We didn’t sign up to lose this much. The POA is not supposed to provide much revenue, but it isn’t supposed to be something that we lose our shirt over, either,” stated NEMI Mayor Al MacNevin after a council meeting last week.

“I guess the POA cash flow is low right now; they don’t have any reserves, and their revenues are down,” said Mayor MacNevin. “They are asking for support of $14,780 to meet the payroll over the next couple of months.” He noted NEMI’s share of the $14,780 deficit is $4,389. “The jury is out if the POA gets the revenues that they are hoping for (in fines and POA offences tickets being paid).”

“To get over the hump right now, we are providing our share of the costs,” said Mayor MacNevin. “I understand a lot of (POA) tickets are not being prosecuted and the early resolution process in courts actually increase the costs to the POA by a large degree, due to the process involved and people fighting their tickets. But I understand that step is going to change,” said Mayor MacNevin.

Mayor MacNevin said while NEMI council passed a motion to provide its share of the current deficit for 2022 for the POA, “on our next council meeting agenda (this past Tuesday) we will be considering a motion to lobby the province to step up and at least compensate the POA for the extra costs they had to pay because of COVID. The province can’t expect the municipalities to provide provincial funding that had been provided to them for COVID expenses. I know our funds were put into operations, so there will not be any money left.”

“We pay a share of about 30 percent of the POA costs among municipalities, and if there is a $45,000 POA deficit for the last two years, this would almost mean a cost to us of $15,000 that we don’t have in our budget. We can’t afford these costs,” stated Mayor MacNevin. “We will have to wait and see what happens next, but if we have to pay that much, it would probably have to come out of our reserves.”

“We (NEMI council) will also be considering a motion at our meeting Tuesday asking for a delegation at the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) and Ontario Good Roads Association conferences with provincial ministries and forwarding this to each municipality to make the same request. This issue with POA needs to get prioritized by the province.” 

The Expositor has learned that POA ticket revenues were down 52 percent in 2021.

At an Assiginack council meeting last week, council passed a motion to pay its share of the POA deficit for 2021 of $1,676.05.

Councillor Christianna Jones told council, “what POA discovered is that because of an accounting error, there is a deficit for 2022 of $14,780. They’re are asking each municipality to pay its fair share of the costs of the deficit.

The issue was also discussed at a Gordon/Barrie Island council meeting. “Basically, the POA is broke,” stated Councillor Jack Bould, who is also a member of the POA board. The POA has sent out a note to all municipal councils indicating an influx of $14,780 is needed so it can get through the next couple of months and, hopefully, more ticket revenues will be generated. And the board will be meeting at the end of the month to see if there has been some income from ticket collection. The tickets were down significantly because of COVID and with more police working off-Island than on Manitoulin.”

“I understand the POA would be running on fumes unless the municipalities help out with funding support,” said Lee Hayden, reeve of Gordon/Barrie Island.

Councillor Bould pointed out, “we’re not obligated to have a POA. Espanola could cover the process of collecting tickets and the court process but they have already said they won’t take this on.”

“I think we all agree that we should pay our share of the funding shortfall,” said Reeve Lee Hayden. He also said if the POA was moved off-Island, “there would be an uproar for the general public if they have to travel off-Island to get their tickets processed or fight them in court.”

On the issue of early resolution, Councillor Bould explained, “as long as this is in place there won’t be any licence suspensions, and a lot of people fight their tickets which in turns delays the court process. And each time a case is delayed, it costs the POA more money.”

Council passed a motion to pay its requested share of the POA deficit.

The breakdown for the municipal share of the amount to cover the expected deficit of $14,780 among the Island municipalities includes: Assiginack, 11.34 percent and an amount of $1,676.05; Billings, 8.47 percent and $1,251.87; Burpee and Mills, 4.3 percent and $635.54; Central Manitoulin, 25.14 percent and a share $3,715.69; Gordon/Barrie Island, 6.9 percent and a share of $1,019.82; Gore Bay, 9.09 percent and a share of $1,343.50; NEMI, 29.7 percent and a share of $4,389.66; and Tehkummah, 5.06 percent and a share of $747.87.