Wednesday, February 29, 2012

PROJECTED DEFICITS AND MUNICIPAL INFRASTRUCTURE


Two seemingly unrelated new stories, the bridge over the gut in Placentia and St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe's pitch to Premier Dunderdale for a better fiscal arrangement for the Province's capital city.

O'Keefe has warned that property taxes would have to be doubled to pay for looming infrastructure problems, if the Newfoundland and Labrador government rejects a new fiscal plan. The city argues the provincial government is not paying a fair rate  for key municipal services, including water and other infrastructure.Despite an operating grant from the province, he says City taxpayers are subsidizing the government.

The city and Municipalities NL are  pushing for a share of the gas tax, elimination of the province's break on building permits, and a break on the harmonized sales tax that the province collects from municipalities.

Juxtapose the City of St. John's request for a funding model that reflects the legitimate challenges of  operating the province's largest municipality with the situation in Placentia where the province has been struggling with replacing a 51-year-old lift bridge. Tenders for a replacement were called last year but the province only received one response and at $43 Million  the cost was considered too high.

This week government declaring the Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge unsafe to handle vehicles weighing more than 13,000 kilograms creating near pandemonium in the community and the Cape Shore where the bridge is a vital link. Mayor Bill Hogan told CBC News "There's nothing unsafe about travelling on that bridge … there's no threat or upset to delivering emergency services, whatsoever,"

The provincial government says it will spend $1 million on immediate repair.

How does the province justify a $50 million lift bridge and road adjustment for Placentia and not deal with the funding issues for decaying infrastructure in the populous capital city? Is the promise of a new lift bridge to replace the "iconic" old bridge wrong? Is there still a need for a lift bridge at Placentia gut?

I think it is time to get our spending  priorities straight.

 Finance Minister Tom Marshall said the government is heading into the pre-budget consultations with a projected deficit for the 2012-2013 fiscal year of almost $500 million.

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