Digby faces challenging fiscal future: mayor

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier jriley@digbycourier.ca
Published on July 2, 2014
Mayor Ben Cleveland and then port manager Jeff Sunderland map out the pososibilties for Digby's tidal energy future in this 2011 photo.
Riley/ FILE

Digby’s mayor says council will have a busy year ahead as they review more serious cost saving options.

After Digby town council approved a $4.8 million dollar budget on Monday June 30, Mayor Ben Cleveland warned councillors they will probably be having more meetings this fall.

Cleveland responded to a series of recommendations in the budget summary by town CAO Tom Ossinger.

The mayor agreed that council should start talks with the RCMP about just how many officers the town of Digby needs and they should start talks with the Municipality of District of Digby about intermunicipal agreements for shared services like Digby Area Recreation.

That particular agreement came up several times at recent public meeting with town residents opposed to paying 50 per cent of a service where the Municipality has four times the population, 8,000 versus the town’s 2,000 residents.

Councillor Bob Handspiker echoed those concerns at the council meeting on June 30.

However reopening the agreement would require the consent of both parties and councillor Peter Turnbull, for one, wondered why the municipality would want to open talks.

“Do you want the Municipality to run the whole show?” asked Turnbull. “That’s what will happen if you start funding it 60-40, 30-70.”

The mayor says even after all the possible cuts have been examined, the town will still have much larger challenges.

“We can cut, cut, cut but until we see some growth in our population and in our economy, we’re going to be challenged,” he said. “With the depopulation in the area, we’re a small town and trying to continue to provide services will be a challenge.”

He says the town will struggle for example to maintain its infrastructure given the current funding models.

“We have a lot of infrastructure that needs to be improved,” he said. “We have $1.3 million of debt right now, which we can manage, but we can’t acquire any more.

“For example, we paid $290,000 to pave our stretch of the Shore Road and we have streets longer than that that need work - even with federal and provincial help the way it is now, it will be hard to find our third of the money.”

Digby town council will begin discussing council size over the next few weeks and Cleveland hopes they can start looking at the other issues of policing and intermunicipal agreements in the fall.