LONDON, ONT. -- Day two of city budget deliberations saw councillors take swings at the province for making them choose between a fiscal policy and childcare spaces for low-income families.

“I know people are going to struggle with this vote.”

Barely containing his emotions, Councillor Josh Morgan scolded the province for asking cities to now contribute 20 per cent of the costs for a low-income childcare program.

“Not really happy about this one. This is not a good spot for government to put another government in.”

Deputy Mayor Jesse Helmer said he was unwilling to see current childcare spots unfunded, “We’re talking about $1.6 million, so that’s 217 kids.”

Morgan argued that municipalities had no input when the childcare program was developed, and now have few options but to accept 20 per cent of the costs abandoned by the province.

"I'll tell you why this really bothers me. The provincial government has exited the space and then stuck municipal council with an impossible decision.”

Council voted 12-2 to accept the added costs. The childcare program will continue unchanged.

Deliberations of city hall’s 2020-23 budget are focusing on a difficult choice: When to draw the line against provincial downloading, and when the value of a service is worth taking on the added expense.

All three of the region’s conservation authorities had provincial funding changes backstopped by city hall, totaling an additional $603,000.

Helmer pointing to London’s experience with recent flood events to support the move, “We had flooding just this month, this is a really important thing in terms of services provided.”

Land ambulance budget on hold

A 15.8 per cent annual budget increase in each of the next four years for land ambulance service continues to raise questions for council.

Helmer wants to know how Middlesex County officials justify the hike, saying, “The call volumes are not growing at 16 per cent a year, even with offload delays, we just have to clearly see what’s going on.”

“There is no detail because no detail has been provided,” Treasurer Anna Lisa Barbon said she has received no additional information from county officials.

A motion by Councillor Stephen Turner to delay discussion of the ambulance budget until February was supported by council.

Turner hopes new information will be available when the county’s draft budget is tabled by Middlesex County Council.

Tax increase

Decisions made during the first two days of budget deliberations have increased the average annual tax increase by 0.1 percent.

Multi-year budget deliberations resume Feb. 6.