Municipal Funding, Op-ed
NOTE: The following is an op-ed piece by Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Minister John MacDonell.
In the past few weeks, a lot of misinformation has appeared about municipal funding. The province of Nova Scotia has not added a single nickel to the costs that municipalities must bear. In fact, the province has taken steps in the last few months to reduce costs for municipalities.
Municipalities have always contributed to education, corrections services and public housing; however, the province has carried the lion's share of those costs. In 2007, the province agreed to cap municipal contributions to education, and to gradually assume all costs for public housing and corrections services so long as the province could afford it.
Nova Scotia is no longer in the financial position to pay the entire housing and corrections bill for municipalities. In March, the province gave municipalities a one-year notice that it would stop absorbing these costs.
The good news for municipalities is that the province has agreed to continue to pay costs for corrections at the 2010-11 level and to hold the education rate at the 2010-11 level. That means the province has not added to the costs that municipalities must bear. In fact, because of a reduction of almost $4 million in corrections costs, they are being asked to pay less than before they signed a memorandum of understanding with the province.
A few municipalities have suggested they will have to increase taxes as a result of these changes. This is not true. Why should their citizens pay more in taxes when municipalities are contributing less?
The province has also taken further steps to save municipalities money. The municipalities expressed a desire in the fall of 2010 to have the province mandate the use of LED street lighting in order to save $18 million. The government just passed legislation that will allow municipalities to move to LED lights.
The province also approved low-interest borrowing that will save municipalities more than $7 million in interest over 10 years. In addition, we will provide $92.5 million this year to help fund municipal services for libraries and policing.
Municipalities, like all other levels of government, are facing serious financial challenges. I am committed to working with municipalities so together, we can help make life better for all Nova Scotia families.