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No new goodies for Pictou County in December budget update

There are no new goodies for Pictou County residents even as the province announced a bigger surplus in its December budget update released Thursday in Halifax.

Minister of Finance Karen Casey announced a projected net surplus of $28.9 million, up by $7.6 million since the budget was first tabled in September. Total revenue is projected to be up by $42 million, or 0.4 per cent, to $10.6 billion.

Expenses are predicted to be up by $16.5 million, or 0.2 per cent, giving a total bill of $10.5 billion.

“Any and all Nova Scotians should see from this update that we are able to live within our means,” Casey told The News. “We will look to maintain that balance for the rest of this fiscal year.”

Pictou County residents can already expect new transportation investments including the twinning of Hwy 104 between Sutherlands River and Antigonish, as well as more funding for rural gravel roads announced Tuesday by Minister of Transportation Lloyd Hines.

Local families also stand to benefit from two new pre-primary centres at the New Glasgow Academy and Trenton Elementary School, first announced in September.

The two new centres, included as part of the province’s 2017-18 budget tabled in legislature in September, joined the existing pre-school program at the academy.

The Trenton program was one of two extra pre-primary sites added by the province to its fall budget in September, an addition to the 50 sites first proposed by the governing Liberals in its April budget.

The other upcoming centre in New Glasgow is just one on a list of 50 sites, which is due to open by the end of this week.

“We are keeping a steady hand on the finances of the province under changing conditions,” Casey said. “We are following the plan laid out in Budget 2017-18 to invest in health care, education, young people, and in new ideas that will create a better economy and healthier and stronger communities.”

The total forecasted surplus is $139.2 million with the net position, after a $110.3 million contribution to fiscal capacity, at $28.9 million, according to the province’s latest figures.

A prior year adjustment in royalties related to the Sable Offshore Energy Project is forecast to add $150 million in revenue.

According to the province, three prior-year tax adjustments are projected to reduce revenue by $182.1 million. The largest is a $162.3 million reduction in personal income tax primarily due to tax planning by high-income individuals in 2015 in advance of the federal government's new top tax bracket.

The updated budget forecast includes additional appropriations of $86.4 million, primarily for increased demands for health care and $25.6 million to pay out long service awards.

The long service payout is for teachers, civil servants and other groups who have such an agreement in place.

Also, departmental expenses are projected to increase slightly by $9.3 million as increased spending in health care is offset by savings from cost-shared project delays.

The province says that debt servicing costs are down $10.8 million, primarily due to lower interest rates and delays in completion of the Halifax Convention Centre.

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