Clarenville Mayor not happy with province’s new cost-sharing system

Changes in municipal-provincial funding splits could mean delayed capital works projects

Published on March 16, 2017

Clarenville Mayor Frazer Russell.

©Jonathan Parsons/TC Media

Clarenville Mayor Frazer Russell says he’s not surprised by the province’s new municipal infrastructure cost-share program. And he’s also not pleased.

“That has been the trend now, to continuously download costs onto the municipalities,” Russell told TC Media.

“Any time that your percentage of a contribution to a capital works project increases, obviously we’re not happy with that,” he said.

Prior to the Department of Municipal Affairs’ announcement last week, a town the size of Clarenville (between 3,000 and 7,000 people) could avail of an 80-20 per cent province-to-municipality split for all infrastructure funding.

Now, while priority projects (like water, waste water and disaster mitigation) are still 80-20, other funding projects have a reduced rate of contribution from the provincial government.

For example, fire vehicles and equipment now have a 70-30 split for towns the size of Clarenville, and recreational projects and buildings (including fire halls) are at a 60-40 split for all municipalities.

Also, all other funding requests — including roadwork — will now see every town in Newfoundland and Labrador pay 50-50 with the government.

It is the roads funding change, which Mayor Russell says could be crucial when it comes to upcoming projects.

“Any time you have that increased contribution, the money has to come from somewhere,” said Russell. “It has to come from your increased capital budget or borrowing.”

As for Clarenville’s roads projects, with the town having to come up with 30 per cent more per project than they previously had to, Russell says it will probably come at the detriment of the road conditions in the town.

“We have, in the past five or six years, been able to take on a large number of small streets and small projects, and solve some small sewer and drainage issues with some of our own funds.

“Now, these funds will have to go towards our contribution to larger capital projects.”

While he recognized there are possibilities for incentives with regionalized contributions for projects like roads, ultimately there is still more onus placed on the towns than before.

And Russell says many of the town’s upcoming projects will now cost more to go ahead with.

This will inevitably result in delays, he added.

Clarenville is currently in the process of prioritizing their capital works funding list. Russell says this announcement complicates matters. The deadline for funding applications is the end of March.

“We’ll have to figure out what’s the best bang for the dollar in view of what will now be our new contribution that’s going to be required.

“There’ll be some road projects now that might be delayed, some water and sewer projects that will be delayed, and so on.”

Twitter: @jejparsons