In its preliminary decision released April 29, 2016, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board concludes that with respect to the financial, social, governance, administrative, planning and infrastructure needs of the community, amalgamation is in the best interests of residents >> UARB Preliminary Decision
The evidence creates a compelling case for amalgamation:
- Improved long-term municipal planning and economic development through a united effort.
- $1M in annual savings for each of the first five years, at minimum.
- Lower taxes with the same or better services - residential tax savings will be $54.60 for every $100,000 of taxable assessment.
- Save $220,000 each year with 11 elected officials, down from 31.
- Less duplication with 16 fewer full-time equivalent positions, half from management.
- Unprecedented investment of $69M in water, roads and wastewater capital projects across the region.
- Stable equalization funding from provincial government for the next five years at a time when this funding is likely to decrease if amalgamation doesn’t happen.
We are pursuing a more efficient governance structure to create a better future for Pictou County. By joining forces we will be in a stronger financial position to tackle the demographic challenges facing us. We are stronger together.
Amalgamation means citizens will get the same or better services for lower taxes - residential tax savings will be $54.60 for every $100,000 of taxable assessment.
Improving Services and Standards
The five-year, $69M capital plan will ensure similar services for residents in similar communities (urban, suburban, rural). This unprecedented level of investment in drinking water, roads and wastewater addresses infrastructure upgrades necessary for the health and safety of citizens and promoting growth.
Citizens will be well represented by 10 councillors and a mayor elected at large. Each councillor will represent approximately 3,000 voters. Reducing committee work and shifting the priority to constituency work will ensure citizens continue to have ready access to their elected officials. The smaller council also means savings of $220,000 per year.
Fairness for Taxpayers
Reserves and savings of each participating municipality will stay in those former municipalities. Debts will remain the responsibility of the ratepayers of each former municipality until repaid.
The New Municipality will minimize duplication of staff and other resources. Many of the reductions can be achieved by not replacing staff when they retire. After 5 years, there will be 16 fewer full-time equivalent positions, half from management, resulting in savings of $663,000.
Police and Fire Services
The Minister of Justice has provided confirmation that status quo policing can continue for up to five years. A new Council will take the time to properly study this issue. Fire services will continue with no change. Costs will be recovered by separate area rates.
Keep Community Identities
We will keep our community identities and traditions that make us proud to live here. The New Municipality will invest in expanded community identification signage, ensure investment is spread fairly throughout the region, and will continue to provide community service grants.
Unity to Stabilize and Grow Our Economy
The New Municipality will be more attractive to businesses since they will be able to deal with one local government and one set of bylaws. With coordinated and improved municipal planning we will be better able to attract investment and to plan for healthy, vibrant, resilient communities.
In five years, the New Municipality is projected to have $5.2M in reserves. It will make significant investments in infrastructure while maintaining a low 6% debt ratio – less than half the allowable standard.
Efficiency in decision-making will give us the ability to respond quickly on matters of regional and local significance. Residents and business owners will have one point of contact to address matters. Our non-profit sector will also benefit from one point of contact allowing them to focus on their services and programs.
More Efficient Operations
By working together, we will create efficiencies that not only save dollars but also allow us to respond quickly to opportunities. Efficiencies will be created through:
- Unified decision-making
- Economies of scale
- Minimizing duplication
- Sharing equipment and resources
- One set of standards, regulations and bylaws
Clear Tax Bills
Property owners will receive tax bills that are easy to understand. Bills will show how all rates and charges affect the bottom line. Yearly comparisons will be provided for easy reference.
Rare Opportunity for Provincial Support
The province committed $27M to help the New Municipality establish a strong foundation. Also, at a time when provincial equalization payments are expected to decrease, we have secured ours at current levels, allowing the New Municipality to plan with stability.
Now or Never
The One Nova Scotia Now or Never report states: “The need for improved governance was a message heard from all corners of the province, linked with calls for breaking down real or perceived barriers to prosperity. There were suggestions for innovations and solutions to address the challenges, and frequent complaints about multiple levels of government, each with different strategies and programs, and insufficient commitment to aligning policies.”
Pictou County 2020
In response to the Now or Never report, an independent group called Pictou County 2020 began a series of consultations to help the people of Pictou County envision their future. More than 200 people participated in the first session alone.
During those sessions residents repeatedly called for unification, regional government, working together to achieve a common goal, elimination of municipal competition and duplication in local government and less red tape. The vision that emerged from those sessions was for “A healthy, united, thriving and bold Pictou County”.