MULGRAVE: Councillors in the Town of Mulgrave are frustrated and at their wits end over the increasing mandatory contributions they’re required to transfer to the province, while the equalization payments they receive have been stagnant.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Darlene Berthier Sampson said that with increasing costs for policing, education, and infrastructure, among a long list of other items, is resulting in the small town struggling to survive.
“Using last year’s numbers – adding education, policing, housing, and a few other items – we have approximately $360,000 of costs that are being mandated to us,” she said. “With a $123,000 transfer budget that’s been frozen.”
During their regular monthly council meeting on May 11, which was held virtually, Berthier Sampson said that in the past seven years – and this is not including the 2020 year – policing costs have risen 23 per cent, while education costs have increased 14 per cent.
“However, equalization has gone down 3.8 per cent,” she noted. “Really, we have a significant eroding of our equalization dollars.”
Mulgrave has yet to be informed by the provincial government what their equalization payments will be for this year, yet Berthier Sampson said they have been told their education transfers would increase $8,239 or six per cent to $140,000, and their policing costs would rise to $163,098, a 2.62 per cent or $4,158 increase.
“Speaking with a spokesperson with the RCMP, they did indicate they’ve heard similar concerns from other towns,” she said. “I expressed significant concern over the town’s ability to continue to absorb these rates and continue to pay.”
The town also recently received notice that they would be receiving a housing bill for almost $36,000 for the year just past, a number Berthier Sampson indicated was twice what they were billed the previous year.
For Ralph Hadley, the town’s mayor, it’s been a hard pill to swallow.
“What floors me is that our education, we lost our school, we don’t have any overhead there, so they shouldn’t have any overhead there,” he said. “All they did when they took our school away was put an extra bus on.”
Hadley’s frustrated that in a dire financial situation, Mulgrave is still paying the same price on their education transfer as they were for 80 kids and he thinks a problem lies within.
“I think the province has a hidden agenda they want us to try to go bankrupt and push us to amalgamation somewhere,” he said. “I strongly believe that. The way this came down, I’m very upset on that, but they’re not leaning out to help us.”