The lowdown on the Springhill situation

Christopher
Christopher Gooding
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Answers to some common questions since Springhill announced it's not going to be a town anymore.

Springhill Mayor Max Snow, council and Amherst CAO Greg Herrett, under contract to the Town of Springhill, answered to the public Wednesday after passing a motion to dissolve the town on Tuesday.

SPRINGHILL – It hasn’t been an easy pill for many to swallow after Springhill’s town council announced it’s dissolving its municipal government and dropping its township title.

Mayor and council tried to clear the air Wednesday and give citizens a sense of what happened and what will happen in the coming months as its approaches becoming part of the Municipality of Cumberland County. From that meeting we’ve compiled some answers to some common questions.

 

Question: Is Springhill a village now?

Answer: No. Springhill is still a town until April 2015, when it hopes to become a part of the Municipality of Cumberland County.

Springhill is applying to become part of the Municipality of Cumberland County, meaning in the future it will elect a single representative to sit as a councilor on the municipal council. 

[FYI – a village is another form of municipal government, with elected commissioners instead of councilors, and empowered with creating its own tax rate and policies, just like a town council.]

 

Q: What happens now?

A: With the motion to dissolve the town made, council will make an application to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board requesting it become part of the county. During this application process, the county and Springhill will enter negotiations and discuss everything from policing to road paving, snow removal, geothermal the fire department – everything. Reports will be made, questions will be answered and, hopefully, the level of services the people of Springhill have been receiving will be maintained.

 

Q: Do I still have to pay my taxes?

A: To quote the bible – “Pay what is Caesar's to Caesar.”

You still have to pay your taxes. You could take the gamble of not paying your taxes this year, but when the new government takes over you will still owe those taxes, and you can bet the next government will want to collect. As Amherst Chief Administrative Officer Greg Herrett said, “There are provisions in the Municipal Government Act that should be incentive enough to pay your taxes.”

Those provisions include putting your home up for tax sale if you’re in arrears.

 

Q: What will happen to the town staff?

A: The town offers a number of services to its community, including Public Works, water treatment, Leisure Services and building services. According to Mayor Maxwell Snow and Deputy Mayor Darrell White there will be no job losses between now and April 2015, but they don’t anticipate jobs will be refilled if there are any retirements during that time.

Like services, though, it was well noted by members of the public that after April 2015, mayor and council don’t have the authority to make those promises.

 

Q: Who is going to police Springhill?

A: Until April 2015, according to Deputy Mayor Darrell White it will be the Springhill Police Service.

Springhill was reviewing policing services in the community and had called for proposals from the RCMP and other communities to determine if there was a cheaper alternative. A decision was expected soon, but council’s decision to dissolve the town changes that. Now, policing in Springhill will be part of the discussions the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board and the Municipality of Cumberland County have with Springhill over the next year.

 

Q: Will my taxes go up or down because of this?

A: The expectation is taxes will go down. The Municipality of Cumberland County has a scale to determine tax rates. If you have street lights, water and sewage services, etc. all factor towards what your tax rate will be and in the coming months the new tax rate for residents and businesses in Springhill will be determined, so it doesn’t necessarily mean what you’re aunt pays for living in a bungalo with well water and a septic system on a dirt road out in the county is what you will end up paying for living in Springhill.

 

Q: So, how much trouble was the town in?

A: A lot.

The town is $5.1 million in debt and didn’t have enough money coming in to pay its annual operating costs, which was $6.9 million in 2013. Loss of tax payers, a dwindling economy, too many roads needing repair, hundred year-old water and sewer lines needing repair only make things worse. To just maintain the town – without any paving or repairs – the mayor and council say they would have needed to raise taxes by 50-cents per $100 of assessment. At $2.25 per $100, Springhill was already the second-highest tax rate in the province.

 

Related articles:

Springhill passes motion to dissolve town

Residents shocked, optomistic about loss of town

Springhill officials face public over dissolution

Cumberland County willing to work with Springhill during transition

Organizations: Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, Public Works, Leisure Services Springhill Police Service RCMP

Geographic location: Cumberland County

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Recent comments

  • Townie
    March 06, 2014 - 09:57

    As far as policing goes it is a no brainer,,The RCMP....no unions,all services/support services/vehicles and equipment in a package deal,liability converts to the federal Govt. All Policing is expensive the Mounties are not cheap..but municipal police operations must adapt to a new policing model,overtime,salary increases,pension,benefits,training,..you name it.....it all costs money no matter the stripe on their pants.Regional Policing with Amherst...eventually they will want parity with Halifax or the RCMP ....and we will be back into pension,salary and benefit issues again.....Pictou is in the same boat..as well as others.....we are not alone.

  • JIM G.
    March 06, 2014 - 09:52

    This is a tough situation. Managing a town is not easy. Most likely the labor cost is higher than what could be afforded by tax payers. Maybe there are pay contracts in place that could not be altered and this is the only way out. Other towns disclose openly they get federal and provincial funding to assist with their capital projects. Really it means a tax payer outside the area is paying for this which works but ?? Most likely the deferred maintenance for Springhill will be rolled in with county projects and paid by rural tax payers and Springhill will lose control of directing many regular town services and the level of services will be reduced. This is not the first nor will it be the last time something like this occurs. The provincial government polices are most important in improving the situation for the long term. The policy of highly taxing successful companies and creating or proping up failing or government reliant businesses does not work. The federal government policies have not worked either creating the same business atmosphere of corporate handouts. For the provincial and federal governments the question could be, "what needs to be done to attract mid size successful businesses to places like Springhill without the corporate handouts?". The next question, "would the towns support new businesses and people moving in to town? ".

  • Ed Childs
    March 06, 2014 - 04:45

    There are a good many unanswered questions that must be considered. With a large population living in Springhill, why are the getting only one council seat. Representation by population should be the norm. Do they think taxes are going to decrease. Someone should examine the addition of the extras to the counties tax rate that will be applied in Springhill. A few years ago the town of Amherst, under Mayor Hallee approached the Province with a proposal to create two municipalities out of the current five. A very quick review showed that this would produce two vibrant and viable communities. The division would be roughly along the boundaries of the current provincial electoral division. The county is so large that serving people in both rural and urban areas would be expensive and inefficient. This needs to come back on the Provial table. Probably won't because it would be politically dangerous.

  • Al
    March 05, 2014 - 15:53

    This action will do a lot of soul serching among other communities in Northern Nova Scotia. I expect to see the Provincial government force amalgimation on the whole are. In a year's time we will be the CRM - Cumberland Regional Municipality. Big tax grab from those who currently live in the county.

  • Doug.P
    March 05, 2014 - 14:26

    “Pay what is Caesar's to Caesar.”...interpreted correctly means Ceasar "owns" absolutely nothing and is owed the same. Caesar takes what he wants, when he wants immaterial the will of any other. In this instance Ceasar will steal your house and sell it if you don't pay him. High taxes killed Springhill, it would only make sense that little or no taxation would bring prosperous conditions again. Good luck convincing the political looting class of this truth.

    • reality check
      March 06, 2014 - 11:29

      So you want to pay no taxes. So expect no police or fire services. You might never need them but it's like paying for insurance. It spreads the risk amongst more people. Ditto for building development services. You don't have that, then you don't have building permits or planning, etc. Who will you cry to if a big stinky asphalt plant goes in next door, or the nice little duplex beside you gets subdivided into a 20-unit apartment building filled with welfare recipients or partying students? Taxes pay for services but hey, if you want no services, move to some place with no taxes. Lots of places up in northern Canada.

    • Doug.P
      March 06, 2014 - 13:16

      You honestly do not understand what government is and truly does. If you did, you would be signing my song louder than me. You have the mindset of North Korean citizen, our Deal leaders bring nothing but joy, prosperity and protection to all of us who are unworthy of such divine grace. What would we do with out them? I have spent the time understanding the answer to this question, you however have been conditioned to mindlessly cling to the "Dear Leaders" wish that you worship them. All governments are corrupt and do great evil to their populations under constant lying and deception. This is a irrefutable fact that not even the most ignorant can blot out.