MEETING PREVIEW: Grand River Conservation Membership Meeting for May 26, 2023

This month, the Grand River Conservation Authorities membership meeting has money matters on the mind. First, there’s a major update on the fiscal year so far, and then the membership will dive into how the authority will budget for the next fiscal year. Speaking of money, the why and how the GRCA sells off land it doesn’t need anymore will come into focus with some procedural changes. All that, and a delegation too!

NOTE: This meeting will be in a hybrid format, broadcast from the GRCA Admin Centre on YouTube starting at 9:30 am.

Hearing of Delegations – There is one delegation for this meeting, and it’s Martina Cotter, who would like to talk to the membership about the entrance fees at the Elora Gorge Conservation Area

Correspondence – There’s one letter this month to the GRCA, a request for some kind of intervention to protect conservation authority properties and the local environment from Bill 23.

Conservation Authorities Act Committee – There was a meeting of this committee back on May 10 and it covered a lot of budget discussion including the new framework, which is a separate topic in this agenda, and they discussed apportionment and the fate of a surplus in category 3, which are the discretionary services of the GRCA. There were two motions out of the meeting, one to support the timelines for the 2024 budget cycle and one support the proposed allocation of the estimated surplus.

2024 Budget Framework: New Regulations – Per the committee meeting, this report outlines how the budget is going to work under the new regulation. Phase I of the process requires that total revenue be identified by source, total operating and capital expenses be identified by category, finding what funding and revenue can by offset, and the apportionment method for category 1 expenses. What is this category 1? It’s the mandatory programs and services offered by the GRCA; category 2 is the programs and services provided based on agreements with the member municipalities, category 3 is discretionary programs and services typically paid for through cost recovery (ie fees), and then general operating and capital expenses. The 2024 budget for the GRCA will be presented in September or October.

General Membership Composition Committee – As mentioned at an earlier membership meeting, this special committee was joined to look at a request from the City of Hamilton to expand the number of people representing them in the membership. There are five options that the committee looked at from not doing anything, to reviewing the Order-in-Council that decides on the governance of the authority, to cancelling the OiC and writing a new one.

The recommendation of the committee is to continue with the status quo and request a meeting with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to talking about amending the OiC to add 1-2 new Hamilton reps.

Cash and Investment Status – As of the end of April, the GRCA has Notes Receivable in the amount of $56,173,393 with outstanding cheques written in the amount of $82,109.

Financial Summary – This is the first real breakdown about the GRCA’s 2023 fiscal picture so far. Operating expenses are down, mostly due to staff vacancies in the areas of water resource and planning, environment education and property rental. There’s also been some savings from the new insurance premiums, and an increase in timber revenue and other programs. So far, financial staff are looking at a potential $311,000 surplus for 2023.

Changes to the Land Disposition Process for Section 38 Land Holdings – When the GRCA owns land that they feel they don’t need anymore, there’s a process for that, and it’s been more or less unchanged since 1997. Then along came Bill 23. The bill added a public consultation process and the caveat to have written notice about a proposed disposition sent to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

What’s involved in the new public process? The GRCA will have to provide written notice for at least 45 days (the minister gets 90 days notice) and begin with the draft transaction notice that will including the location, a description of the land, the date of disposition and potential future use. Comments will be received through the GRCA’s website, and a report about the public comments will be prepared for the membership. That feedback, along with the recommendation of the best offer for the land, will be discussed and debated in-camera before resolution is moved in open session.

Review of proposed policies adapted from A Place to Grow and Provincial Policy Statement – So back in April, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing sent a proposal for consultation. It asked for feedback about combining two major documents: the Provincial Policy Statement and A Place to Grow. As noted in the report, “The proposal, if passed, would result in sweeping changes to the way communities are planned in Ontario.”

The GRCA has three recommendations: that they recognize the importance of natural heritage and water resources, that the Ontario government clarify the role of municipalities and conservation authorities when it comes to the management of hazardous sits, and to emphasize the need for watershed and subwatershed planning.

Provincial Offences Act Officer Designation: Section 29 (Conservation Areas) – The membership has to improve the  all new hires, and in this instance the hiring is of three new people to act as Provincial Offences Act officers. These officers will enforce issues on GRCA properties including alcohol use, trespassing, vandalism and off-leash dogs.

Current Watershed Conditions – According to the latest report, April was a very wet month in the region thanks to over 100 millimetres of rain. As a result, reservoirs met their mid-spring targets, but staff are looking at a fairly dry May by the time we get to the end of the month.


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