The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) is holding firm against Hay River town council’s demands for a return to pre-2010 levels of block funding, according to Mayor Andrew Cassidy.
“We got a letter back from the minister,” Cassidy told The Hub. “They’re still not willing to budge on their party line.”
Town council sent a letter to MACA last month stating that it would stop services – including water delivery, sewage treatment, fire and ambulance – to the surrounding communities of Enterprise, the Hay River Reserve and Kakisa if the funding for Hay River was not increased by $300,000 a year.
While some in the community believed MACA would quickly give in to the 180-day ultimatum, set to turn into action on March 1, 2014, MACA Minister Robert C. McLeod has so far not acceded to Hay River’s demands.
“Letting communities make their own program and spending decisions based on the priorities and needs of their residents is an important principle of MACA’s approach to funding community governments and reflects the GNWT’s belief in the value of personal and community responsibility,” the minister wrote in a letter published on Oct. 7 in News/North. “In the end, it is up to each community government – and the residents that elected it – to determine how best to manage all expenditures to create sustainable, vibrant communities and a strong NWT.”
The letter also states that community governments can choose to charge extra for services they provide to NWT residents outside their boundaries, for instance in the case of recreation facility charges, or increase municipal taxation rates to raise funds.
Most of the letter, however, responds to the claim made by Hay River town council that MACA’s funding formula is flawed. McLeod stated that, although circumstances change, the basis of the calculations remains solid.
Cassidy said the minster has agreed to make himself available to council for further explanations of the formula.
“We’ve asked to be taken through the formula again as a group,” the mayor said. “It was sort of loosely explained to us before, but we’ve asked for more particulars on what numbers they use and how they populate the formula.”
McLeod cited population shifts, cost of living and average resident income as factors that change the amount a community receives in block funding, but Cassidy said council wants to know the specifics.
A date has yet to be set for a meeting.
“We’re not looking at this as a negotiation,” Cassidy said. “The discussion is open and we’re trying to get back to pre-2010 funding levels we once had.”
— Sarah Ladik