Details on funding for municipalities released

The Newfoundland and Labrador government says it will use a "remoteness index" to help determine how much money small communities will receive.

Largest communities unsure about long-term financial plan

Kevin O'Brien, the minister of Municipal Affairs, says the provincial government has a new formula to determine the needs of smaller municipalities. (CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government says it will use a "remoteness index" to help determine how much money small communities will receive.

Meanwhile, leaders from the metro St. John's region were also eager for more information about how last week's budget will affect them.

Kevin O'Brien, the minister of municipal affairs, said the changes revealed Tuesday were necessary to ensure the needs of a range of communities were being adequately met.

"They have different opportunities — they have different challenges," O'Brien said.

"So we want to recognize those on a go-forward basis, and that's the reason why we're going to treat them a little different all along the way."

Under the new arrangement, municipalities with populations under 11,000 will receive as much, if not more funding than last year.

O'Brien said the "remoteness index" that will be used as part of the funding formula.

"It takes into consideration accessibility to essential government and community services, and there's a general relationship between the remoteness index and property values," O'Brien said.

Councillor unsure of course of action

Municipal operating grants (MOG) for the province's seven largest communities were eliminated, but the government said that will be offset by making more capital works funding available.

Danny Breen, a St. John's city councillor, said the city is unsure about the direction they will take.

"The MOG is something that we've accounted for in our budget — we've made that adjustment," Breen said. "Our big concern is where we go from here."

However, Breen said the consultation process will be a welcome platform to address council's issues.

"[I'm] very encouraged to hear the minister say that we're going to begin the consultation process to address some of the issues that we have."

Mount Pearl Mayor Randy Simms said the sooner the work begins, the better off municipalities will be.

"We need those talks — we need, when we get to 2014 and going into 2015, we need a new, more concrete, sustainable financial relationship with the province," Simms said.

"If that's going to be capital- and infrastructure-based, that's not a bad thing, but we need to get to work on it and get it done."

According to O'Brien, the province would prefer to have the task done as soon as possible, but he doubts it will be ready for the 2014 budget.

Simms begs to differ.

"I believe you can do this in a year if you're committed to it, if the people sitting around the table are determined, and if everybody has the same objective."