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Kelly Says Provincial Budget Will Cost HRM Almost $6 Million
(Friday, April 5/2002)-- Halifax Regional Municipality is going to have to come up with an additional $6 million this year as a result of provincial downloading in yesterday's Budget, Mayor Peter Kelly said today.
Mayor Kelly said "It's not the things they (the Province) trumpet in the media that costs us the money...it's the things that they don't tell you in the news releases that cost the taxpayer the extra money."
One of the biggest increases for HRM in the provincial Budget is a $3.4 million jump in education costs. Among the things the additional money will go towards is medical/dental benefits for teachers and French special programs.
Mayor Kelly said "The Province signs collective agreements with the teachers. They generously agree to sweeten the pot for medical and dental benefits..and then they send the municipalities the bill. The municipalities don't have a say..in fact, we weren't even consulted."
The Province announced a $3 million increase in the cost of Assessment Services this year. Previously, the Province advised municipalities two years ago that it was downloading the $12 million annual cost of Assessment Services to them. HRM's share of that amount was to $4.3 million annually. With this year's increase, that total has risen to $5.4 million.
Mayor Kelly says the Province should be taking advantage of available municipal technology to upgrade its Assessment Service, rather than developing its own and passing along these unnecessary costs to municipalities.
Halifax Regional Municipality suggested to both the Province and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities that it may be cost-effective to use HRM's land information technologies as a means of enhancing and improving the Assessment Service.
"Yet, it was announced in yesterday's Budget that the Province would be spending $2 million this year to develop its own information technology. Why re-invent the wheel? If it was still their (the Province's) cost, would they be as anxious to embrace new systems?" said
Changes in the Canada/Nova Scotia Infrastructure Program announced in the Budget will impact on whether municipalities can move ahead with a number of Capital Works Projects as they had hoped.
A spokesman for the Municipal Relations department said today the Province will spread out its participation in the federal/provincial program over seven years, rather than the previously announced five-year duration. Ottawa and Nova Scotia will provide a combined $198 million for the program during that time-- participating municipalities will have to provide their one-third cost-sharing for projects.
HRM had expected to receive $4.4 million under the Infrastructure program this year. It is expected this will be reduced to $2.6 million.
"The Province wants to spend the same amount of money over a longer period of time. That means that HRM and other municipalities may have to delay some badly-needed Capital projects." the Mayor said. "Moreover, what guarantees do we have that if we advanced their share, the Province would reimburse those monies if they encountered problems next year? Given some assumptions in the Budget document, this is not out of the question."
The two-cents per litre increase in fuel prices and increased fees to license HRM vehicles (restricted plates) will mean additional costs to the municipality. HRM will also see a $127,000 decrease in library operating grants.
Mayor Peter Kelly