Provincial funds mostly all factored in CBRM budget: Clarke

May 22, 2014

SYDNEY, NS - The province has confirmed $725,000 in funding from existing municipal programs, but it will have little impact on CBRM's budget as the funding was already expected and calculated, Mayor Cecil Clarke said today.

Clarke spoke with Municipal Affairs Minister Mark Furey during budget deliberations on Wednesday and today received confirmation of the funding available. The province confirmed $425,000 for transit, $250,000 for wastewater program planning and $50,000 for recreation planning.

Clarke says the transit funding is actually lower than expected as CBRM had calculated $480,000 in the 2014/15 capital budget.

The $250,000 for wastewater planning will allow CBRM to reallocate gas tax to local roads, but in all, the municipality is only ahead by $195,000 which must be applied to capital costs such as roads, not operating pressures like services.

"Overall we are dealing with almost $5 million dollars in costs that the province has passed on to us," said Clarke. "The result of the provincial government confirming funding allows us to move $195,000 to local roads, but at the same time reduces our transit investment by $55,000."

Some of the cost pressures from the provincial government include $520,000 in increased education costs and $317,000 less in equalization. Cape Breton Regional Municipality now pays more to the province in conditional transfers (almost $18 million) than it receives in equalization from the province ($15 million).

Cape Breton Regional Municipality council unanimously passed a $142.7 million budget on May 21st. The budget was balanced with no increases to the tax rate.

"We did our jobs to get to balance without increasing the tax rate but tough choices were made to get there, including choices that were understandably upsetting" said Clarke. Council reached a budget impasse in late March when additional costs from the province were calculated. The passing of a balanced budget was delayed by over 7 weeks.

Clarke says infrastructure is the municipality's top priority right now.

The municipality has $12.3 million available for capital spending awaiting matching dollars from the provincial and federal governments. The construction season has already started but the federal government is awaiting an agreement with the province to flow Build Canada funds.

"Our city is ready to get to work," said Clarke. "The clock is ticking on the construction season and no funds have moved yet, which is troubling."

Mayor Clarke has called on the Premier to fund an independent audit to verify the municipality's fiscal reality for all Nova Scotians.