Mulgrave plans for sustainable future

Progress report coming this summer

By Helen Murphy    

MULGRAVE – In the face of financial constraints and a lack of amalgamation options, the Town of Mulgrave is planning for a more sustainable future.

Along with seven other municipalities in the province facing similar challenges, the town was required to submit an action plan to the Dept. of Municipal Affairs last summer. According to new CAO Darlene Berthier-Sampson, the town will submit a progress report to the department this coming July.

“The Town continues to practice sound fiscal management including monitoring its financial indicators,” Berthier-Sampson told The Journal Tuesday.

The July 2018 action plan outlines the steps the town feels it must take to improve the situation and how it will monitor progress. The nine-page document outlines problem areas to be addressed, including the town’s reliance on a narrow commercial tax base and the need to have a healthy operating reserve.

Most of the town’s commercial tax revenues come from Ocean Nutrition, Canso Superport and Port Hawkesbury Paper.

As a first goal, the plan lists the need to take proactive steps to broaden Mulgrave’s commercial tax base. Efforts in that direction include the town joining economic development network ESREN on July 1, 2018 with the goal of enhancing commercial activity. A subcommittee of council and interested citizens is presently working with ESREN staff on the repurposing of the local school.

About the Mulgrave School property, the report states: “The risk of a large commercial property ceasing to operate in the Town is a real risk to property taxes in the Town going through the roof.”

Other goals focus on fiscal management, including “building a safety margin and having a healthy operating reserve balance” to be prepared for changing circumstances and thereby avoiding “major tax rate swings.”

The Dept. of Municipal Affairs uses a Financial Condition Index as part of gathering information on the financial health of a municipality, and on a municipality’s ability to meet existing financial obligations. For those municipalities where six or more of their 13 indicators fall into the high and medium risk, the department requires they submit an action plan, and provides guides and support to help the municipalities develop their plans.

The purpose of the action plan is to detail steps the municipality will take to mitigate the identified risks, and to clarify the steps the municipality and council have agreed to take to improve outcome or mitigate noted risks, department spokesperson Krista Higdon told The Journal Tuesday.

The seven municipalities are required to submit progress reports by July 20, 2019.