After a 15-year wait, Yukon’s communities will get a raise.
There will be an increase in municipal grant funding, said Community Services Minister Glenn Hart.
Slated to begin by April 1, 2008, Yukon communities will receive the increase over five years, said Hart.
He made the announcement Friday at the Association of Yukon Communities’ annual general meeting in Dawson City.
The Comprehensive Municipal Grant Fund hasn’t been increased in almost 15 years, leaving many Yukon communities without enough money to build, grow and stay healthy.
Although the community funding hasn’t been increased, transfer payments from Ottawa have increased to $506 million in 2006/07 from $289 million in 1993/94.
“We haven’t seen an increase in our funding reflective of that, even though the cost of living has gone up significantly since 1993,” said Faro mayor Michelle Vainio on Monday.
Now the Association of Yukon Communities is calling on Hart to clarify his announcement.
It wants to know by what amount the funding will increase and how the review process will happen between the territorial government and the association.
“We are very appreciative of the government’s recognition of the chronic under-funding of Yukon municipalities,” said association president Doug Graham from Dawson.
Infrastructure is decaying in towns like Faro, said Graham.
Faro has been spending its annual municipal grant fund on operating costs instead of capital infrastructure projects, so nothing ever gets improved, said Vainio.
The town must rebuild its aging recreation centre, which is costly to heat.
And it must do major restorative work on its water and sewage lines.
“We’re supposed to spend the municipal grant funding 50-50 on operation costs and capital costs, but lately it’s been 95 per cent spent on operating costs,” said Vainio.
“We’ve got to keep up with internet communications, water maintenance training and everything else in the town with a municipal grant of $1.4 million — that’s just a drop in the bucket.
“Even with the increase it’s still just a drop in the bucket, but it will help.
“I’d like it to be brought up 15 per cent to match inflation and after that I’d like to see it go up with the consumer price index.”
The Association of Yukon Communities hopes that increased funding will help towns like Faro with their annual operating costs.
And it will also help communities put some money into reserves, said Graham at the association meeting.
“I realize that it’s kind of a cliché that we’re spending our kid’s futures, but that’s exactly what’s happening because we simply can’t get enough money every year to cover our operating expenses as well as plan adequately for the future,” he said.
Graham would like to see the funding doubled but he realizes that that might be difficult for the association to negotiate.
“We’ll be looking for a fair deal,” he said.