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More moolah for municipalities

Yukon's municipalities will be getting a bit more money from the territorial government next year.

Yukon’s municipalities will be getting a bit more money from the territorial government next year.

Not only has the territory increased the amount of money set aside for the comprehensive municipal grants, but it has revamped the formula used to dole out the funds.

Negotiations on rewriting the program, which started last spring, were quite a challenge, said Elaine Wyatt, the mayor of Carmacks and president of the Association of Yukon Communities.

Time was tight, and getting every community on board was no easy feat, she said.

“It was a very daunting task in a short-time frame but everybody rose to it and it was great to see,” said Wyatt.

The grants, which will be handed out in a lump sum at the start of the fiscal year, will be based on a new simplified formula making them more sensitive to the needs of the communities, said Elaine Taylor, minister of community services.

“Municipalities will also be able to calculate their payment in a timely manner, enabling communities to do long-term planning, budget and forecasting for future infrastructure needs,” she said.

Not only will there be more money available for the grants - $18.1 million, up from $16.6 million last year - but the funding formula is also more flexible, allowing for further increases if population or economic changes warrant it.

“The grant for each community will be calculated independently, ensuring that the grant is responsive to each community and changes within those communities, as opposed to having one municipality competing against another for a fixed share amount,” said Taylor.

That calculation will be based on publicly available figures, like population size and the number of dwellings.

It will also better reflect priorities like sustainability and densification - things that weren’t a consideration when the grant was first introduced back in 1991, said Robert Fendrick, manager of administrative services for the City of Whitehorse.

Under the old formula, the more buildings a town had, the more money it got.

For towns like Faro with a fair number of abandoned buildings, dealing with them would have meant a cut to its funding. That’s no longer the case.

“It’s not saying keep the old buildings standing, it’s saying deal with your old buildings ... do good governance and you’re not going to get penalized in the comprehensive municipal grant,” said Christina Smith, the director of community affairs for the Yukon government.

Along with the changes to the grant, the Yukon government has also set aside $400,000 a year to be shared among the territory’s municipalities for structural fire fighting. That’s in addition to the $1.9 million the territory announced last spring.

“Overall this is positive news for all Yukon municipalities,” said Taylor. “In essence, the comprehensive municipal grant combined with fire supplement means every municipality will receive incremental increases in funding in the years ahead.”

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