Muskoka residents are you growing your money tree? Taxes might increase to fund two new hospitals

Agatha Farmer

GRAVENHURST - There might be an extra $80 taxed per Muskoka household for the next 15 years to fund hospital construction.

At an Oct. 15 Gravenhurst council meeting Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare board chair Phil Matthews and CEO Natalie Bubela presented information on the recent vote by the board to endorse two new Muskoka hospitals.

Matthews began by saying that “these are unsettling times for health care in Ontario as I’m sure you are aware. And we will do everything we can to meet these challenges and continue to provide exemplary care.”

On Oct. 10 the hospital board endorsed the recommendation of the task force to build two new hospitals; one in Huntsville on the existing site and one in Bracebridge on a new site.

A strategic plan is now required and Matthews said the board has engaged hundreds of people in this plan.

“It’s not a destination, it’s a journey and we recognize that it will change dramatically depending on what happens in the health care world,” he said.

Matthews went on to explain MAHC’s capital planing for the two new hospitals.

“The government gave us 90 percent of capital cost of the building and they ask the local community invest 10 percent of that cost, they also ask communities to supply fixtures and equipment so collectively that adds up to 25 percent,” he said.

Matthews said the calculation for the local share is as follows in 2019 dollars, keeping in mind that as time goes on cost of construction increases.

Total Local Municipal Share: $129 Million

Transfer of Assets from Existing Hospital: $35 Million

Foundation Commitment $20 Million

Approximate Local Share is then reduced to $74 Million.

How can that be funded you ask?

Matthews said that if you take 50,000 homes in Muskoka and with the $70M being raised over 15 years that works out to be approximately $80.00 per household in additional taxes.

“So that’s what it comes down to ... municipalities and district are working on how can this be spread, how can this be taxed through the community over the next 15 years. The key is to start as soon as we can,” he said.

Coun. Jo Morphy asked if donated lands can be part of the municipal share, unfortunately the answer was no.

The land and location for the new Bracebridge hospital has no yet been determined.

Coun. Heidi Lorenz asked if the current building in Bracebridge will be demolished or re-purposed.

Bubela said there are a variety of options being looked at, such as re-purposing the property to be used as low cost housing, or for offices of the new Ontario health team or it may be demolished.

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