Health costs continue to climb for county
By Chad Ingram
Published June 28, 2016
The cost of the county’s EMS department continues to rise year after year at a rate that Minden Hills Reeve Brent Devolin says is unacceptable.
Haliburton County councillors received an audit of the municipality’s 2015 spending during a June 22 meeting.
While spending in most areas – planning, transportation, etc. – remains fairly constant with small increases or fluctuations on a year-to-year basis, the budget line for health – which includes the operation of the Haliburton County Paramedic Service – grows by a much larger chunk each year.
Between 2011 and 2015, health expenses have risen by about $1 million, from approximately $4.2 approximately $5.2 million.
Like most departments, wages and benefits constitute the majority of those costs. Wages for 2015 constituted just over $3 million, benefits nearly another million.
Health costs in 2015 increased some $280,000 from 2014, which an audit from firm BDO said was due to an increase in EMS staffing related to the opening of the county’s new EMS base on Highway 35 in Minden.
The county is reimbursed by the province for 50 per cent of its land ambulance program and total health costs paid by the municipality for 2015 amounted to just less than $3 million.
“It’s a trend that I see as a huge red flag and cannot continue,” Devolin said of the increases. “That’s something that we as a council need to have a serious look at.”
The County of Haliburton has an annual budget of approximately $20 million, approximately $13.7 million of which was levied through taxation in 2015.
“Everything is very consistent, year over year, where your revenue sources are coming from,” auditor Trina Connell of BDO told councillors.
Last year, council voted to take out some $3.6 million in loans on which payments will be debentured over a number of years, Some $1.7 million went toward the construction of the new EMS base on Highway 35 and the remainder was to help cover a number or large infrastructure projects.
Revenues for the municipality increased by $1.86 million in 2015, including some $677,000 in increased taxation and an influx of provincial funding nearly $700,000 in provincial funding, a large chunk of the latter for construction work on the Head Lake bridge in Haliburton Village.
The county ended 2015 with a surplus of about $360,000. Its reserves were at about $3 million heading into 2016.