A year after forcing amalgamation on 100 municipalities, the provincial government is stepping up to help communities deal with the expense.
“In the long term, amalgamations have a huge positive effect on finances. In the short term, there were some front-end costs that need to be addressed,” said minister of municipal government and Brandon East MLA, Drew Caldwell.
Caldwell stated that the provincial government would support amalgamated municipalities through a $1-million fund.
The announcement was made at the initial session of the AMM annual conference held in Brandon at the Keystone Centre on November 23 to 25.
The conference brought together more than 800 delegates from the 137 municipal governments from across the province to discuss challenges facing rural Manitoba, to better partnerships of neighbouring municipalities and vote on more than 40 resolutions.
“Partnership is huge for us and is essential for our municipalities to function effectively. So, to have the opportunity for these delegates to come together, as well as a number of provincial bodies, is a very positive thing,” said AMM president and mayor of Steinbach, Chris Goertzen. “It allows everyone to interact and discuss common issues and work together towards solutions.”
While Goertzen was pleased to hear support is available, he said $1 million won’t cover the entire cost incurred by the amalgamation, which he estimates at $2 million to $3 million.
“It is a positive step for the government to acknowledge that the amalgamation was difficult and has caused some municipal costs. However, this amount won’t cover all of the existing cost,” said Goertzen.
As of January 1, 2015, 100 municipalities were required to amalgamate into 47. Some of these municipalities have reported little to no costs, but others that have been required to find new property and equipment, have reported elevated costs.
Caldwell did not speak to how the funds would be divided, but rather, noted that the province would release eligibility requirements in the coming weeks.
Split equally amongst the 47 municipalities, each community would receive a little more than $20,000.
“We’ve had pretty positive feedback but there are still municipalities that we are assisting with the transition,” said Caldwell. “A positive for many of these municipalities will be the increased tax base, which will increase their ability to access more federal and provincial dollars.”