Communities to plug into new pots of money

Independent power production may be the way of the future for Yukon municipalities. Money raised from small-scale hydro projects could help pay for increasing infrastructure costs.

Independent power production may be the way of the future for Yukon municipalities.

Money raised from small-scale hydro projects could help pay for increasing infrastructure costs, said Yukon communities association director John Pattimore.

But, at this point, it’s just a dream.

Last week, municipalities from across the territory met to brainstorm ways to become financially sustainable. 

Communities are facing increased costs associated with maintaining their landfills, recreation programs and wastewater treatment facilities, said Pattimore.

The only money they get now is from the Yukon government’s comprehensive municipal grant.

And it’s not enough.             

“Municipalities don’t want to be totally dependent on the Yukon government,” said Pattimore.

That’s why they’re looking for creative alternatives to pay the bills.

Independent power production works in British Columbia, why couldn’t it work here too, said Pattimore at a Friday launch of the Our Towns, Our Future community review.

It would require extensive talks with Yukon Energy but it’s something the association may want to pursue, he said.

Earlier this year, communities cried foul when the government proposed doling out its yearly municipal grant in quarterly payments rather than as a lump sum.

Mayors and councillors protested that municipalities would miss out on interest payments and wouldn’t be able to raise the capital to build big infrastructure projects during the summer.

The government changed its mind at the last minute and said it would reconsider the change until the following year.

It’s an issue the community review will look at over the next few months, said Pattimore.

The current Municipal Act, which dictates how communities are funded, is too narrow, he said.

For instance, if a community constructs a new building, the taxes levied from that building will automatically reduce the amount they receive from the comprehensive grant.

In the end, putting in new infrastructure disadvantages communities, said Pattimore.

Aside from finances, the five month review will also look at how to attract and retain community administrative officers.

When Pattimore took on his job as director earlier this year, four of the eight incorporated communities in the Yukon didn’t have a chief administrative officer.

“We need creative thinking on how to attract these people,” he said.

The review committee will also consider whether to grant additional funding to communities for recreation programs.

For now, communities aren’t mandated to provide any recreation programs for citizens.

That needs to change, said Pattimore.

The review committee – composed of three government officials and three association representatives – hopes to wrap up its review March 31 and release the results at the beginning of April.

Contact Vivian Belik at vivianb@yukon-news.com