Fiscal Review Questions Feedback

Village of Hebbville:


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Feedback is to be submitted by December 15th, 2014
1. Do you think the proposed process is reasonable? Why, or why not?

To begin with, the review was inappropriately conducted; therefore any process moving forward would be flawed, and could have legal implications. Specifically, Villages throughout Nova Scotia were excluded from the process. Those living and conducting business in the twenty-two villages in Nova Scotia will be the most adversely affected, and removing any opportunity to improve the ability of Villages to further enhance their operations (Recommendation 13), with the recommendation leading to dissolution of the all villages (Recommendation 14) without consultation with the villages, is despicable and disrespectful to the Villages and their electors. These facts further weaken the credibility of this report. This makes the proposed process unreasonable. Villages had a right to be included, no one has been able or willing to offer a reasonable explanation as to why Villages were not included, and the entire Fiscal Review is based on Villages not being in existence after the approval.
For the purposes of providing feedback on the Provincial-Municipal Fiscal Review, an assumption is made that all Villages will NOT be dissolved, and henceforth will be treated fairly and equitably.
There are recommendations that have a serious impact on Nova Scotia municipalities that, although of benefit to the provincial coffers in the short term, can have a devastating effect on many towns and municipalities in the long term, eg.: a) freezing equalization grants for three years until this is settled. A better recommendation would be to continue with the status quo, but prepare municipalities for any changes that could be the result of this Review’s recommendations. Municipalities will not be able to recuperate the lost revenue from the freeze, and at this point, the beneficiaries of the freeze would be the province and NSPI.
The change in process for equalization grants, PCAP grants, NSPI payments, downloading responsibility for roads and streets, must be carefully reviewed by all parties and the long term impact on all municipalities must be better considered.
a. Recognizing the review does not necessarily lead to amalgamation, do you support the use of the FCI as a method to trigger a constructive review? If not, please suggest another alternative.

First of all, the report certainly does not imply that “the review does not necessarily lead to amalgamation”. The review does imply that municipalities will be encouraged, if not sometimes forced, to consolidate/amalgamate. As an example, many of the recommendations are valued on whether or not the end result would be conducive to consolidation of municipalities.
The Financial Condition Indicators (FCI) tracking process is a great tool for both municipalities and the province, as long as the review is “constructive” rather than “destructive” and as long as the template requires pertinent information, and as long as every municipal unit is required to

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report. However, a heavy-handed process will not be constructive, and much more consideration must be given to at which point the “boom” is lowered.
Recommendation 7 states: “In extraordinary circumstances, where it is jointly agreed upon by the UNSM and (DMA) that there is a need, a municipality could be targeted for a review process.” We would respectfully suggest that any authority given to UNSM and DMA should be thought out very thoroughly and discriminately. Individuals making decisions of this nature must be well versed in the process have an extensive knowledge of finances, at all government levels and have no bias whatsoever. An open-minded approach needs to be determined, and an outline of this approach must be standardized by ALL parties, particularly those who have the most to lose.
2. Is there anything you would change with respect to the review process?

#1. The first thing that MUST be changed about the review process is: there should be no exclusion in the process. There is no doubt that villages were left completely out of the process because some members (still to be determined) feel villages are “low hanging fruit”. Village Clerks were not invited to a scheduled preview of the Fiscal Review in mid-October at Fall AMA Conference and were not forwarded the draft copy until a week after CAOs received it. This exclusion is inappropriate and must never happen again.
#2 – The timing for response is tight, and this fact is worthy of mentioning. Reportedly, the Working Committee took at least two years to compose and comment on the review and its recommendations. The review was posted on the UNSM’s website on October 14th, and municipalities are required to respond in under two months. If it is the intention of the Working Group to make this a fair and equitable process, they must be aware that this is a difficult deadline for many units.
#3 – The County of Kings is one of the largest rural municipalities in Nova Scotia and encompasses 7 Villages – approximately 1/3 of all Villages throughout Nova Scotia, yet they were not officially invited to participate in the review. This decision may have had some strategic significance, and if so, there needs to be an explanation of this exclusion.
#3 – The power point slides presented by travelling show indicated the “Fiscal Review Process Overview” included “Conduct Consultations with Municipalities, Villages and UNSM to Gather Feedback” (see page 3 of the presentation). In theory, this would have been a critical step in the process; however, each session was limited to four hours (including a lunch break), and it was obvious there was not enough time allotted for the participants to give feedback. Worst of all, the “feedback” portion of each session was limited to discretionary responses on technical items only, at best. Specific to the question at hand: Villages were curtly told to “Put it in your response …” by the UNSM President who was assisting in the facilitation of the “Equalization and Governance” sessions. Attempts made by Village elected officials to make comments and provide feedback were abruptly halted.
#4 – There is no indication in the Review as to the disclosure of the responses to these questions. The responses to the review should be disclosed in their entirety. This will ensure transparency and democracy.