Valley town not one of those thinking of following Springhill's lead
BERWICK – News that Springhill will dissolve its town status and seek to become part of Cumberland County has shaken town administrators across the province.
After the announcement, Kentville Mayor Dave Corkum, who also serves as president of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, indicated there are several other Nova Scotia towns that may soon be forced to follow Springhill’s lead. He declined, as did the provincial department of municipal affairs, to identify other towns that are struggling to make ends meet.
Berwick’s deputy mayor, Jane Bustin, reacted by pointing out that Berwick is not one of the towns considering any changes to its municipal status.
“No, Berwick is definitely not one of them,” said Bustin, adding Berwick had its own wake up call several years ago when Maple Leaf announced plans to close the town’s Larsen plant.
“Council had to make some tough decisions then,” said Bustin, who wasn’t a town councillor at the time.
“For a couple of years, we had to make do with less. But we built ourselves back up and are now maintaining our own.”
When any municipal unit is facing financial crisis the first instinct can be to raise taxes, she acknowledged.
“In towns, the chief source of revenue is property taxes. But raising them can create a vicious circle that is hard to get out of,” she added.
Bustin explained Berwick council made gains by keeping the line on spending by “going line by line” through annual budgets and adopting a consultative approach to operations.
“We have always been upfront and pro-active, as opposed to reactive,” said Bustin.
“But that being said, council has to be able to make decisions,” Bustin added, referring to criticism of Springhill council’s seemingly out-of-the- blue announcement to dissolve.
“It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Many towns in Nova Scotia are facing similar challenges,” of declining populations and a tax base that has a high percentage of seniors, she added