Guest speaker discusses Canso dissolution in Hantsport

Ashley Thompson
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Barry Carroll has been there, done that when it comes to dissolution.

Carroll, chief administrative officer of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG), is the head of the rural municipality the former Town of Canso joined upon dissolving July 1, 2012.

Carroll discussed his own experiences with dissolution at length during a town hall meeting in Hantsport Aug. 20.

Sharing a powerpoint presentation with roughly 60 spectators, Carroll indicated that dissolution allowed residents of Canso to see several improvements made within their community without taking a hit in their tax rate.

However, the process did not lead to lower taxes for ratepayers in the former town. The tax rate in Canso remains at $2.35 per $100 of taxable assessment. The base tax rate in the MODG is .61 cents per $100 of taxable assessment.

“We never promised that we would reduce them, but we said we would try to keep them the same — and we've accomplished that,” said Carroll.

He said the tax base in Canso, a community with a population of about 880, is approximately $600,000 per year due to the low property assessments within the former town. One of the most challenging aspects of dissolution, he added, is trying to help ratepayers in Canso understand why they must pay an urban tax that residents of the rural areas of the municipality do not pay.

“We can't generate the tax from the low assessments to pay for their services,” said Carroll.

Prior to dissolution, the small town, hit hard by industry loss in the early 1990s, was unable to keep up with costly infrastructure upgrades.

Following dissolution, Carroll said a number of infrastructure improvements were completed. The improvements included: a new public works garage, new digital water meters, new sidewalks, new fencing, new equipment at the fire department, a $600,000 renovation of the fire hall, repairs to the sewer treatment plant and the restoration and reopening of the Canso Pool.

Carroll said savings were achieved through eliminating duplications when Canso was integrated into the neighbouring municipality, but 50 per cent of the former Town of Canso's staff found work with the MODG.

The MODG opted to scrap a $115 environmental fee paid by residents of Canso, eliminate a rule that charged property owners a minimum tax of $500 regardless of the assessment and reduce water rates by 8.43 per cent.

In concluding his presentation, Carroll stressed that he found the provincial review board based its final decision on Canso's application to dissolve its township on facts alone — not emotion.

A transition committee has been selected to oversee the proposed dissolution process in Hantsport. Governance, finance, and infrastructure studies that were requested as part of the process will be filed by Sept. 5. The provincial government is paying for the studies.

Hantsport's town council must decide which neighbouring municipality — Kings or West Hants — it wishes to join by Sept. 30. The wants of the receiving municipality and Hantsport's town council will be discussed in negotiations.

 

By the numbers:

The following is the funding Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations contributed for the dissolution of Canso into the Municipality of the District of Guysborough.

— $262,824 per year for five years to assist with transition (total = $1.31 million)

— $244,000 to cover the outstanding debt of the dissolved Canso

— $360,000 for five years for infrastructure improvements within Canso (total = $1.8 million)

— Up to $160,000 for human resource and reemployment funding for former Town of Canso employees impacted by the dissolution, plus $70,000 to assist with the implementation of the dissolution as ordered by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board

— A one-time grant of $582,000 for capital improvements and remedial action on assets

— Money for legal services required for property transfers from Canso to the absorbing municipality

Source: Barry Carroll’s powerpoint presentation

Organizations: Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, Town of Hantsport, Town of Canso

Geographic location: Canso, Hantsport, Guysborough Nova Scotia Town of Hantsport Town of Canso

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  • Get On With It
    August 22, 2014 - 12:54

    The town charter and the services it requires are a millstone around the neck of Hantsport residents - ask anyone who has tried to sell a house in town. Time to move on and get rid of town status - get on with it council you are doing the right thing!