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GRCA budget drops but seeks more city funing

The Grand River Conservation Authority’s budget is dropping this year, but it is asking member municipalities including Guelph for about 2.5 per cent more money.
The GRCA board has approved a budget calling for total spending of $29.4 million this year, a drop from the $30.7 million budgeted last year.
About $10.3 million, or 34%, of the 2014 budget will come from municipalities in the watershed, with about 12% coming from the province.
The other 46% comes from self-generated revenues such as camping fees, park admissions, hydro generation, donations, property rental and other sources, a news release said.
Municipalities are being asked for 2.5% more money this year because the GRCA’s other sources of revenue, such as provincial grants and some types of self-generated revenues, don’t grow as much as basic operating costs, the release said.
Much of the drop in the GRCA’s 2014 budget is related to the winding up of some major projects that were supported by provincial grants, said GRCA manager of communications Dave Schultz.
The most notable of these is planning for drinking water source protection, which saw a lot of provincial money flow to the GRCA while it was carrying out the research phase, Schultz said in an email sent in response to a Tribune query. This led to hiring of more staff and consultants.
“That work is largely done now, so the staff numbers have dropped and the consulting work has dried up, except for a few projects that will wind up soon,” he said.
Another reason for a lower 2014 budget is that the GRCA is almost finished a $1.2-million project to reconstruct Elora’s Drimmie Dam, and there are no big projects of that scale on the books this year, Schultz said.
“The budget for our core work – the day-to-day stuff we do – is about $23.4 million, and that’s up about two per cent, mostly a reflection of increases in wages, utilities, taxes, etc.,” he said.
The GRCA plans to spend $385,000 on upgrades and maintenance to six GRCA dams, including the one at Guelph Lake, this year.
It has also budgeted $900,000 to fight the emerald ash borer. This invasive pest, a green beetle, has spread through most of the southern part of the watershed, creating potentially hazardous situations in GRCA parks, trails and other properties, the release said. Effort will go into assessing the potential risks and beginning to remove or treat trees as required.
The GRCA budget covers the costs of programs that protect water quality, reduce flood damages, preserve and improve natural areas, support environmentally responsible development, and provide outdoor recreation and environmental education.

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