AYC to discuss territorial grant funding with premier

With $25 million more flowing to the Yukon from Ottawa, the Association of Yukon Communities wants their chunk of change.

With $25 million more flowing to the Yukon from Ottawa, the Association of Yukon Communities wants their chunk of change.

Sometime in the coming months, the association will meet with Premier Dennis Fentie to discuss funding to Yukon communities, said its president Doug Graham.

Yukon communities are funded through a territorial grant, which is split into two parts: the base grant, which covers a community’s capital costs; and a grant for operating costs.

Graham’s main concern is that the operating grant has not been tied to inflation, leaving some communities with less money than they were receiving 12 years ago.

He’ll bring this up during the meeting with Fentie.

But Fentie wants to discuss community funding in general, including, for example, the gas tax funding.

“Some communities, Whitehorse for one, have got the same or lower amount each year over the last 12 or 13 years; in fact, I think this last year we were slightly lower than we were 12 or 13 years ago so there’s no doubt the territorial grant hasn’t kept up with inflation,” said Graham.

 “Now, having said that, (the government) is helping communities in a number of different ways and we appreciate that. But we thought that it would be a good time to speak with the territorial government in terms of some kind of inflation factor with the territorial grant.”

Graham intends to tell Fentie that Whitehorse is doing alright because housing assessments have increased, generating more tax money.

But that’s not the case for all Yukon communities.

“So (Whitehorse is) not in as tough a shape as some of the smaller communities where you’ve had no increase in assessment over the last few years whatsoever.”

Many haven’t had their base grant increased, said Graham.

“They’re basically living from year to year hoping that nothing bad happens or their budgets are going to be really impacted.”

Faro is in that position, said mayor Michelle Vainio.

“Even minimum wage is being based on a cost-of-living clause,” said Vainio.

“The communities haven’t received any additional formula financing in years and years; there is no cost-of-living clause and yet, as everyone knows, your food goes up every year, your fuel goes up every year — everything goes up.

“None of the territorial money that we get, none of it is rising. However it’s our operation-and-maintenance costs that are becoming the issue because whenever you can access money through other sources it’s for capital projects. And that’s where the problem lies.”

Faro is, in many ways, the perfect example of the problem.

When its lead-zinc-and-silver mine shut down in January 1998, the population of Faro fell to about 390 from 2,500.

In 2007, the town must pay to operate infrastructure that it can no longer support because its tax base has collapsed.

Yet Faro is not receiving any more operating money from the territory.

Take the recreation centre, said Vainio.

The buiding is heated by a boiler and it needs to be replaced, but there is not enough money to do it.

Faro’s sewer and water pipes are also deteriorating, but there is no money to replace or fix pipes and power lines, said Vainio.

“We haven’t had the tax base that’s filling our infrastructure for many years and even the communities that have full capacity are now suffering because they have aging infrastructure and they’re just not getting the money to go with the cost of living,” said Vainio.

“The territorial government receives money and I’m heartened by what I see in this (federal) budget, but how much of that will actually come to the communities I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”