A welcomed budget

Brandon Anstey
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MNL president pleased with Budget 2014

With the handing down of Budget 2014, president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, Chruence Rogers is quite satisfied with the investments in this year’s financial plan.

MOVING FORWARD – Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador president, Chrucnce Rogers, said this year’s budget is good news for communities across the province. However, MNL is working with the government to make a significant change to municipal funding in Budget 2015.

One of the biggest upsides for MNL is the $200 million to go into infrastructure for communities across the province.

“Overall, it was pretty pleasant,” said Rogers. “We had some pre-budget announcements for early tendering – $200 million in capital works projects, and we knew that was going to be on par with the last couple of years. That’s the key piece for the budget that we’re most excited about.”

It’s an announcement municipalities have waited years for, and will help to speed up the work process, he said.

“Now, municipalities are going to find out by mid-April if they’ve been successful in their applications for capital works projects. If they are, they can get their tendering done and work started by early summer, so they can get the work done this year that they’ve been approved for. It’s a major move forward from our perspective.”

According to the MNL president, other aspects of the budget were in line with the organization’s expectations, but there will be a big change to some of those aspects in 2015.

“The other parts of the budget, from a municipal side, are pretty much the standard norm that was introduced last year. The municipal operating grants are remaining the same at $22 million. We knew that would stay the same because that’s the commitment the government made to not change it until the 2015 budget. That’s the one where we’ll be looking for significant changes to the new fiscal framework arrangements.”

Budget 2014 is in vast contrast to the one handed down in 2013, and the expectations of MNL were met with this year’s financial planning, said Rogers.

“Overall, the budget is certainly more pleasant than last year’s. From our municipal side, we got what we expected to see. We knew government has engaged with us to partner on a new fiscal framework arrangement in 2015. The work and research all has to be done before final positioning in the fall. We’ll have a final document from our perspective and they’ll have one from their perspective, and then we’ll work towards framing out a new fiscal arrangement that we’ve been looking for so long.”

Over $5 million allotted for fire departments across the province is another key aspect for MNL in Budget 2014.

“It’s always a significant investment. They’re talking about buying some new fire trucks, and some departments just simply need to buy some equipment like suits, breathing apparatuses, and these kinds of things. So, that’s always good to see that there’s funding put aside for the fire emergency service groups to do the work that is so fundamental for every municipality.”

The government has also committed $4 million for marketing tourism in the next two years, and that’s another bonus for the many municipalities, said Rogers.

“That’s always good because any time you can drive the tourism industry, particularly in some of the smaller rural communities, it’s certainly dollars towards the economy and that’s always positive. Having seen the growth of the tourism industry in the last few years, it’s certainly significant in many parts of the province.”

While there was a few let downs in Budget 2014, MNL will push towards turning the tide in 2015.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the HST rebates that we’ve been asking for,” said Rogers. “Having said that, we are committed to 2015, and that’s our target date and government knows that. The work that we’re doing now, the significant work prior to the fall, has to be completed. Based on that, I’m hoping that we’re going to see a major change to the way municipalities are funded in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

 

banstey@ganderbeacon.ca

Twitter:@beaconnl

 

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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