Proposed York Rural Community makes sense, committee tells minister
Steering committee for proposed community asks Serge Rousselle to approve a plebiscite for Oct. 23
A committee studying a proposed York rural community northwest of Fredericton has asked the province to approve a plebiscite on the issue for Oct. 23 after concluding such a community would be a "feasible and desirable" way to deliver local services.
The steering committee for the York Rural Community Project submitted its final report this week to Local Government Minister Serge Rousselle.
He would have to approve the plebiscite.
The proposed York Rural Community would include the local service districts of Keswick Ridge, Bright and Douglas, Lower Queensbury in the Queensbury local service district, and Island View, Lower Kingsclear, French Village, Oswald Gray Subdivision and a portion of Upper Kingsclear in the Kingsclear local service district.
The York Rural Community Project held three public meetings about switching from a local service district system to a rural community system. About 250 people attended the meetings.
Debby Peck, a vice-chair of the York Rural Community Project, said the feasibility study proposes "the final boundary that the minister [should] consider and it represents a bit of a change in the proposed tax rate … and what services we would recommend the council take on."
Rousselle told members of the group he would consider the recommendations.
"I am analyzing their report and will make my decision in the near future," he said in an email statement Friday.
The proposed community has about 9,000 residents and a tax base of $660 million, the steering committee said. If it goes ahead, the community would have a full-time general manager and full-time clerk-treasure.
7 wards and a mayor
Mailing and civic addresses wouldn't change, but the name York Rural Community would be used for administrative purposes.
The final report proposes seven wards, with seven councillors and a mayor.
There would be a start-up administration budget for 2019 of $250,000, and a tax rate increase of 1.3 cents per $100 of
assessment, which would cover administrative costs.
Peck said there is still misunderstanding among residents about the difference between local service districts and rural communities, and it's the cause of some resistance to the proposed York community.
With a local service district, the provision of services such as fire protection, waste management and policing, is still the minister's responsibility through property taxes, the project's report said.
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A rural community has a local government, and decisions are made by an elected council.
Despite some opposition to a rural community, Peck said she hopes Rousselle will allow the project to move to the next step, the plebiscite.
"Voters, through the project area, will receive notice from local government [about] the plebiscite through the mail and it will go directly to their home, and just like any provincially arranged election through Elections New Brunswick there will be polls throughout the project area," she said.
An advanced poll would also be available, according to Peck, on Oct. 14 should the minister approve the plebiscite.
Many other local service districts have amalgamated recently. Lameque and Miscou are the most recent local service districts to became a rural community in a vote of 1600-725 against.
Cocagne was the first community to consider it, in 2007, and voted no 929-232.
Residents there voted again in October of 2013, this time voting yes 487-451.
Even though almost as many rural community projects have failed as succeeded, Peck said if people are wanting more information, they should feel free to reach out to the community project organizers.
"They're time yet for people to learn what they would be voting on."