Tories fulfil election promise, double funding to Nova Scotia municipalities
Equalization grant has been frozen at $32M a year since 2014
Municipal Affairs Minister John Lohr says the Nova Scotia government is fulfilling an election promise by doubling the equalization grant to municipalities.
The amount has been frozen at $32 million a year since 2014, an amount that is divided among municipalities that qualify based on a formula that involves the cost of providing services and ability to pay.
"I'm delighted that this is the first announcement that I get to make as minister of municipal affairs," Lohr said during a small announcement in Windsor on Friday afternoon.
"Municipal services are incredibly important to the everyday lives of everyone in our province and over time, these services have become more expensive to deliver."
He said municipalities will receive the full amounts they are entitled to, even though they are halfway through the fiscal year.
This year, the funding means the Cape Breton Regional Municipality will get an additional $15 million.
That's welcome news to CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall.
"Overall, really excited to be able to kind of take a breath again," she said.
"It's been counting nickels and dimes, not being able to invest in new opportunities or programming, just kind of keeping status quo and trying to stay afloat for so long."
McDougall said she has some ideas on where to spend the money, but council will have to discuss it first.
CBRM has long complained that the equalization grant, which is now called the municipal financial capacity grant, is insufficient.
The grant has been frozen for seven years, but each year the government requires municipalities to tax residents and send that money to the province to cover education, housing and corrections.
This year, those taxes amounted to $21 million, while CBRM only received $15 million back in equalization.
Some municipalities do not receive any equalization funding, while others get smaller amounts.
Municipalities can expect to receive the extra money within the next month, Lohr said, adding it is intended to tide them over while the province negotiates a new funding arrangement altogether.
According to the minister's mandate letter, the department will include the cost of road maintenance in a new memorandum of understanding on funding.
A spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality said HRM does not receive equalization funding from the province and is waiting for more information on the new deal.
McDougall said while she is pleased with the extra funding this year, CBRM is eager to start talks on a new funding formula.
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with files from Nicola Seguin