The burden of social programs on ratepayers was a topic of debate, during last night's Kenora District Municipal Association (KDMA) meeting. While Dryden councillors want to see some relief from Queen's Park, Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance says they're already seeing it.

"In 2015, the total DSB (district services board) budget was just under $40 million. This year it's $60 million. So, a $20 million increase, which is a 50 per cent increase, but the local share increase has gone from $7.4 million to $8 million or about $600,000," he said, during last night's annual meeting. 

In defending the resolution, Dryden Mayor Greg Wilson noted Ontario is the only province in the country, where property taxpayers are being asked to contribute towards social programs.

"It would be righting the ship, so that municipalities would be able to -- for example -- take those funds that they used to have for infrastructure -- that ended up going towards social services -- we would be able to take those back and then fix up our municipalities, the way they used to do it," Wilson said, as he defended the resolution from Dryden council.

Delegates from the nine municipalites in the district recalled how the provincial government under Mike Harris changed the funding arrangements. At the same time, members recognized the value the province has been offering recently, through the district services board. Recent announcements have included promises of affordable housing with wrap-around supports, which also have the long-term potential for reducing police budgets, Lawrance noted.

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