Further to Mayor Mattatall’s quote in the Nov. 24 edition of the Coast Guard when speaking about the amalgamation of the Municipality and Town she stated, “We went into this process in good faith and we want to know if they are willing to do this or not - I don’t know what else there is to ask. I do not believe this is a confrontational approach, I believe it is an honest one.”
We all want what is best for our communities. The question of amalgamation has been framed as an emotional issue. It is not. It is about economics. This is a financial issue that needs to be managed in the best interest of the residents of the Town and the Municipality of Shelburne. As we proceed to discuss amalgamation, I want to depart from the emotive analogy of union and marriage. This is not about being left at the altar with shock, hurt, and resulting disappointment. The emotive position derails the process of negotiation to achieve our final goal of doing what is best for all of our residents and the communities in which we live.
When the conversation around amalgamation commenced the process was defined as one of two equals getting together. The infrastructure study and debt affordability model revealed that the Town and the Municipality are not, in fact, equals. The Municipality is in much better financial condition than the Town.
The Town can argue that it does not have to spend all of the money on infrastructure that was identified in the study; however, this is like not replacing the tires on your vehicle when they are worn out. It is dangerous. There are risks and potential liabilities if money is not included in the Town’s budget to manage these liabilities, so the point is, how long can the Town survive without putting money away to pay for their infrastructure liabilities?
Whether Town residents are asked to pay for the infrastructure deficit now or later is the question? The Town’s weak financial position restricts it’s ability to create reserves for their infrastructure deficit; ie., 1 cent on the Town’s tax rate brings in about $8,500 whereas for the Municipality, 1 cent on the tax rate brings in about $35,000.
So from this explanation you can see that the Town would have to increase its tax rate significantly in order to fund any substantial infrastructure project. For example, the Municipality recently put $450,000 into our medical clinic, whereas the financial position of the Town permitted it to contribute $20,000 each year for five years. It is unlikely the Province would have agreed to do the medical clinic without the money from the Municipality. If we allowed the weak financial position of the Town to damage the financial strength of the Municipality, it would affect our ability to do projects similar to the medical clinic.
In a recent meeting with the Deputy Mayor of Parrsboro, she explained to Mayor Mattatall and I that she had no problem with the Town of Parrsboro choosing to dissolve. For her, it was not an emotional issue; instead, it was just about accomplishing a goal in the best interest of the residents of Parrsboro.
It is an imperative that as municipal leaders, our council represents our constituents. We are doing this in asking the Town to mitigate their financial position in order that the collective vision be achieved. As a town council, it is incumbent upon town leaders to mitigate their fiscal risks. This can be done most effectively through dissolution.
To date, all situations in the Province where towns have found themselves in a position where their long term financial viability has been in question, the situation has been resolved through dissolution. This puts the receiving Municipality is the best possible position to negotiate with the Province for funding to repair the infrastructure deficit which could then lower the tax rate for the dissolving town while protecting the financial position of the receiving municipality.
I hope the Town council will provide the leadership for its residents and hold the public consultations around dissolution. This is what I would do.
Municipality of the District of Shelburne