© ADAM MACINNIS – THE NEWS
UNSM President Jim MacAlpine speaks with various town leaders from Pictou County following a presentation to Westville council Monday evening.
WESTVILLE – Municipal leaders from Stellarton, Trenton, New Glasgow and Pictou made a trip in the snow Monday evening to sit in on the Westville council meeting and listen as the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities president spoke about the struggles facing towns in the province.
President Jim MacAlpine focused the bulk of his presentation discussing the Memorandum of Understanding which the province reneged on in April.
Under the agreement the province had committed to assume $100 million in municipal costs for corrections, public housing and education over a seven-year period.
Westville alone will now have to pay $97,472 on those expenses in the upcoming fiscal year.
“I think we have to take them to task on it,” MacAlpine said during the meeting. “I encourage you to talk to your MLAs and let them know the importance and the impact this has had on your community. The only way we’re going to get them to move is if they start hearing it from the ground up.”
The biggest impact, he said, will be on municipal units that had capital plans in place for the coming years with the assumption that the province was covering the costs.
“Let’s face it, if you have to pay $100,000 more, that’s $100,000 less you have to do your sidewalk or do your roads with,” he said.
Westville Coun. Lynn MacDonald expressed her concern as well.
“In 2008 the NDP supported the change with the MOU and now without even consultation with the UNSM they’ve changed it. That’s a huge worry,” she said. “What can we do about that? We are basically at the pleasure of the province.”
MacAlpine also expressed his frustration with the cap on taxable assessment that the province has in place. The cap limits how much a house assessment can increase each year to the consumer price index.
“It’s a fairness issue,” MacAlpine said. “It’s not that we’d get more tax dollars. It’s a shift in the tax dollars going onto the lower-assessed properties.”
He said the province has done a review on the assessment and have indicated they don’t plan to change anything, although it appears they are open to other suggestions.
“When I talked with the premier last week, I asked, ‘If the UNSM comes forward with a sound logical alternative to the cap will you look at it?’ and he said ‘yes.’”
Following his presentation, MacAlpine chatted with the other municipal leaders in the hallway while Westville council continued.