Windsor agrees on mega-hospital levy

Council will pay for its share of hospital levy through a one per cent tax increase and money from capital budget contingency fund.
Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj once again defended the proposed mega-hospital plan Monday night at a special city council meeting. (Derek Spalding/CBC)

Windsor council agreed to pay for its share of the proposed $2-billion mega-hospital after a lengthy and emotional council meeting Monday night.

Dozens of critics once again tried their best to delay the hospital plans, but in the end, the politicians voted to cough up $108 million through a funding formula that includes a one per cent annual tax levy.

The decision puts an end to questions about how the city and Essex County will pay for the local contribution of the proposed hospital. County council already agreed to raise $93 million for its share of the $200 million. 

In addition to the one per cent tax levy, Windsor will pull money from its capital budget contingency fund as well as revenue generated from a solar farm at Windsor's airport.

"I don't feel this plan in front of us is a bad plan," said Mayor Drew Dilkens of the overall proposal to build the mega-hospital. "There are a lot of positives with this plan."

Stiff opposition

Dozens of residents once again lined up to protest the hospital. Many of those speakers on Monday focused their complaints on site selection, arguing the location near the airport will spur on urban sprawl and create barriers for people who can't afford trips to the hospital.

Many also complained about not having ample time to give their input on the project.

Resident John Holmes got into a shouting match with Mayor Drew Dilkens at Monday's council meeting, where the politicians voted to pay for Windsor's share of a proposed mega-hospital. (Derek Spalding/CBC)

"I will not forget having this new tax imposed on me without the opportunity for debate and input," said Howard Weeks, a resident of Ward 4.

Dave Cook, the co-chair of the steering committee for the new hospital, took offense to those comments from members of a group that call themselves Citizens for an Accountable Megahospital Planning Process.

"Most of these CAMPP folks haven't attended even one of our community consultation sessions — not one," he tweeted.

Funding breakdown

An initial report from city administration called for a 2.19 per cent tax hike to raise Windsor's share of its requirement for the hospital. But Dilkens presented an alternative formula at Monday's meeting.

An annual levy of one per cent will bring in the bulk of the cash at about $55 million, while another $40 million will come from the capital budget.

Interest on the levy as its collected is expected to bring in $6.9 million and an estimated $5.4 million will come out of revenues collected from the Samsung solar wind farm starting in 2020 and continuing until 2029.

This formula reduces the annual blow to taxpayers, compared to the original 2.19 per cent increase, while not dipping too far into capital funding, Dilkens explained.

"If we took more from the capital budget, we put ourselves in a position where we're not able to deliver on our capital program," he said.