Nova Scotia Municipal Affairs Minister John Lohr has issued a second order for the Village of Baddeck to straighten out its finances after the elected commissioners failed to meet all of the directives of an initial order issued late last year.
On Thursday, the minister said the commissioners made a "good-faith effort" to meet the May 1 deadline and just needed more time.
Residents of Baddeck refused a suggestion to dissolve the village at a public meeting last month, so Lohr has given the commission until July 6 to meet the terms of a new order.
"The people of the village still support the village, still want to see it go forward," he said. "We know they understand the tax increases that will take place. The audited financial statements were not completed, but they're well underway and we are confident that they will be there by then."
Before the second order was issued, interim chief administrative officer Maris Freimanis said village commission chair Bill Marchant had resigned last week.
He also said the commission will have several other vacancies, but that an election will be held at an annual general meeting on June 27.
Freimanis was not available for comment on Thursday.
Minister 'relatively pleased'
Lohr said the department is willing to work with the village to get its finances back on track.
"In some ways, it's our vote in favour of the Village of Baddeck, too," he said.
"We want to see them succeed. We're relatively pleased with the effort that they had made to date, but recognizing it wasn't complete, we wanted to give them more time to complete this second ministerial order."
The village has struggled to collect on tax, sewer and water bills since firing its chief administrative officer last year.
She had suggested changes to the process, but they were never implemented.
At a public meeting in April, residents were given the first glimpses of financial statements for the fiscal years ending in March 2019, 2020 and 2022.
They were told the numbers had not been audited and that the books for 2021 were in such a mess that it was "not possible" to produce a financial statement.
Residents were also told that sewer and water rates have not changed in years and that new rates would be necessary to cover the cost of service and to replace aging infrastructure.
Lohr said he is satisfied the residents are aware of the consequences of carrying on as a village, instead of dissolving and amalgamating with Victoria County.
"They indicated in that meeting that they understood the tax implications, that their taxes would have to go up," he said.
Lohr said there may still be "gaps" in the financial records by July 6, but he is hopeful that progress will be made.
"I hope the village commissioners and the villagers of Baddeck will see this as a favourable order," he said.
"This is an order saying, 'Keep working. We respect the work that you've done. We know you're not quite there yet. You've got a lot more to do.'"
The new order repeats directives from the first one, such as:
Produce a budget for the coming year.
Hold an annual general meeting.
Submit audited financial statements.
Hire a qualified clerk/treasurer.
It also calls on the commission to:
Submit minutes from its annual meeting.
Undertake a water rate study.
Submit a water rate application to the provincial utility and review board.
Submit an updated plan on billing and collection of utility and tax charges.
Submit meeting minutes every month.
Submit progress reports monthly.
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