Greater Sudbury has agreed to forgo $350,000 of the $800,000 it's expected to save when the province takes over the full cost of funding social services next year.
The money will be used to fund some of the discretionary benefits recipients receive now, but the province doesn't fund.
Among the discretionary benefits in question is medically necessary dental care for kids on social assistance.
“One benefit area that has been consistently under pressure is the area of medically necessary orthodontic coverage for children,” a staff report on the issue says. “This area alone consumed approximately $121,000 of the discretionary budget in 2016 and is on pace to exceed the 2017 total budget expenditure for this category.”
Meeting this week, members of the community services committee heard from Tyler Campbell, director of social services. Campbell said the province has gradually taken over the full cost of social services, which are delivered by the municipality.
"The discretionary budget is approximately $1.2 million a year,” he said, but has routinely gone over that amount in recent years.
"What we're seeing is an increased demand for discretionary items."
While supporting the motion, Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre wanted staff to prepare a report listing the items covered under the discretionary benefits policy to be delivered in time for this year's budget process.
"I think the list is dated back a few years,” Lapierre said. “There may be some things that need to be tweaked or added or shuffled ... I want staff to look at the discretionary items ... and bring us a report on how they've tweaked it.
“But we need to provide this service."
Considering the savings, Ward 5 Coun. Bob Kirwan said the move really isn't adding anything to the budget.
"I don't see this as a $350,000 increase on the tax levy," Kirwan said.
However, staff said that the full $800,000 savings had already been included in the 2018 budget forecast, meaning it will have to be revised and the savings found elsewhere or added to the project property tax increase.