Municipality of the District of Clare
Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 7:00 pm
PRESENT: Council: Warden Ronnie LeBlanc, Deputy Warden Nil Doucet, Councillors, Hector Thibault, Brian Comeau, Eric Pothier, Danny Hill and Carl Deveau
Staff: CAO, Stéphane Cyr, Director of Finance, Ginette Cheff, Executive Assistant, Ashley Hanks, and Communications Officer, Amy Paradis
ABSENT: Councillor Yvon LeBlanc
1) Call to Order
Warden LeBlanc called the meeting to order at 7:00 pm.
2) (a) Approval of the Agenda
MOVED BY Councillor Danny Hill and SECONDED BY Councillor Carl Deveau that the proposed agenda be approved as circulated.
(b) Declaration of Conflict of Interest
Warden LeBlanc asked for any declarations of conflict of interest.
Warden LeBlanc declared a conflict of interest with item 8.1 Contract Negotiations – Université Sainte-Anne and indicated Deputy Warden Nil Doucet would chair this portion of the meeting during his absence.
4) Staff Reports
4.1 COVID-19 Property Tax Financing Plan Policy – Chief Administrative Officer Stéphane Cyr and Director of Finance Ginette Cheff
The Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities (NSFM), Association of Municipal Administrators (AMA) and the Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing have drafted the COVID-19 Property Tax Financing Plan Policy. The policy would allow municipal units across Nova Scotia to offer eligible residents and businesses a 30 month payment plan to pay their 2020-2021 taxes. It would also allow municipalities to apply to the Province’s Municipal Finance Corporation for an operating line of credit to relieve cash flow pressures created from uncollected taxes while ensuring the continued delivery of essential municipal services. The Province has set aside $380 million to fund the program. To be clear, this is not a tax deferral or tax forgiveness plan. Applicants approved under this plan would have to repay their taxes in full and bearing an interest rate of 1.35%.
Municipal participation in this program is not mandatory. Municipalities wishing to apply must demonstrate need. Municipalities who have sufficient cash flow or an ability to borrow are still eligible but will have to clearly articulate the rationale for their request.
Much like the Municipality, applicants to this program would have to demonstrate need and provide documentation, such as financial statements or a ROE, illustrating how they have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Applications would be reviewed by staff, vetted against program criteria and ultimately approved or declined. Ratepayers currently in arrears on their property taxes are not eligible for this program.
Upon review of the program, it is the recommendation of both the CAO and the Director of Finance that the Municipality not apply to the program at this time. The administrative burdens to deliver this program notwithstanding, the Municipality currently enjoys a strong cash flow position. Furthermore, tax collection efforts have proven successful to date with many residents and business paying their taxes before the stated due date. Case and point, as of today, the Municipality had received $305,517 in taxes compared to $187,952 this same time last year. Granted much uncertainty remains. Should the situation devolve, the Municipality may opt to apply to this program at a later date. In the meantime, it will continue to offer its own tax relief measures and work closely with those residents and businesses who are most in need. As always, residents and businesses who can pay their taxes on time are strongly encouraged to do so.
5) Business arising from Previous Meetings
6) New Business
6.1 Fire Departments – Capital Funding 2020-2021
The total amount available to fire departments in fiscal 2020-21 for capital purchases (not including fire trucks) is $129,000. This amount is generated by the 5 cent area rate and represents the remainder of the amount collected, once all existing debt obligations relating to the fire service have been paid. Upon review of the 5-year capital plans submitted by the Municipality’s 7 volunteer fire departments, a total of $121,842 has been approved, with the remaining $7,158 available for unforeseen expenses.
This year’s requests focused almost exclusively on personal protective equipment (PPEs). Council agreed with the proposed purchases and the recommended funding levels as presented by the CAO. The following motion to recommend was made:
PROPOSED BY Councillor Danny Hill and SECONDED BY Councillor Carl Deveau that the Council for the Municipality of the District of Clare recommend approving the 2020-2021 volunteer fire department capital funding expenditures as presented.
6.2 C&D Site
The proposed maintenance work to the C&D site was included in the Municipality’s 2020-21 Capital Budget. A total of 3 bids were received. Upon review of the bids, it is staff’s recommendation that the tender be awarded to Gary Belliveau Construction and Excavation Ltd. in the amount of $19,400 plus HST. Council made the following motion to recommend:
PROPOSED BY Councillor Bran Comeau and SECONDED BY Councillor Hector Thibault that the Council for the Municipality of the District of Clare recommend awarding the tender for the maintenance work to the C&D site to Gary Belliveau Construction and Excavation Ltd. in the amount of $19,400 plus HST and that these funds be taken from the Municipality’s capital fund.
6.3 Belliveau Cove Wharf – Update
The claims adjustor for this file submitted his report to the insurance company on April 29th. This report includes a quote from B & G Lombard Ltd. for the proposed repairs to both wharves. The report also includes estimates to repair the damage sustained to the lighthouse as well as to replace benches lost during the storm. The proposal for the north wharf (the most heavily damaged) focuses on the use of heavy stone rather than wooden piles and is believed to be a more durable and cost effective solution. The interior portion of the north wharf is also in need of immediate repair. This will not be covered by the insurance as it is a pre-existing condition which evolved over time and as such will have to be dealt with by the Municipality. At present, municipal staff has initiated the necessary permitting process with DNR, DFO and Small Craft and Harbours, as we await the final report from the insurance company. The CAO is strongly recommending the necessary repairs be carried out this summer to avoid any further damage to the wharves and surrounding infrastructure and will continue to update Council as the situation progresses.
6.4 Variance Letter – Waste Check
Due to COVID-19, some recycling depots have closed temporarily and are no longer accepting blue bags. The Municipality’s current provider, Scotia Recycling, remains open and is currently operating 24/7. The variance letter, as drafted by Waste Check, is for informational purposes only and represents a proposed alternative to municipal units should Scotia Recycling temporarily close. More specifically, in such an instance, the letter calls for the blue bags to be diverted to the Region of Queens Landfill. The Region of Queens is also drafting a similar letter requesting permission to accept these blue bags should the need arise. Again, this is more a planning exercise at this point. Blue bags are still being sent to Scotia Recycling. The Municipality is communicating with Scotia Recycling regularly and will continue to monitor the situation, in collaboration with Waste Check.
6.5 Low-Income Property Tax Exemption 2020-2021
The Municipality incorporates a low-income property tax rebate in its annual operating budget. The rebate included for 2020-21 is $300 (as per last year) for those households earning less than $19,000 per annum. Council passed the following motion to recommend:
PROPOSED BY Councillor Brian Comeau and SECONDED BY Councillor Carl Deveau that the Council for the Municipality of the District of Clare recommend setting the 2020-2021 low income property tax exemption amount at $300 for households earning less than $19,000 per annum
7) Questions and Comments from the Public
8) Closed Session
PROPOSED BY Deputy Warden Nil Doucet and SECONDED BY Councillor Danny Hill that Council proceed to closed session.
8.1 Contract Negotiations – Université Sainte-Anne
PROPOSED BY Councillor Eric Pothier and SECONDED BY Councillor Danny Hill that Council proceed to the Regular Council Meeting.
Warden Ronnie LeBlanc returned the chair the close of the meeting.
9) Date and time of the next Council-in-Committee Meeting
The next Council-in-Committee Meeting will be held on June 3, 2020 at 7:00 pm.
PROPOSED BY Deputy Warden Nil Doucet to adjourn the meeting at 8:20 pm.