We are doing our best to answer all your questions around the consolidation. These are the questions we have heard from you so far.
What is the process? How long will it take?
The first step was for the Town of Windsor and the Municipality of the District of West Hants to pass motions agreeing to enter into negotiations to voluntarily consolidate the two municipalities through legislation. These motions passed in July 2018.
We then approached the provincial government to request legislation to allow the consolidation process to proceed - this legislation passed in Fall 2018. Our situation is unique because the new regional government will consist of only Windsor and West Hants. Typically, under the Municipal Government Act, a regional government would be formed from of all the municipalities in a particular county. In this case, only Windsor and West Hants wish to consolidate – which requires separate legislation to allow this process to proceed.
The legislation addresses transitional matters and allows for the voluntary consolidation of our two communities. It outlines: the appointment of a transition coordinator and establishment of a transition coordinating committee; and the responsibilities of the coordinator and the coordinating committee.
We are now in the process of hiring a Transition Coordinator and forming the Transition Committee. The Transition Coordinator will lead the committee and will also be responsible for applying to the Utility and Review Board to determine the number of councillors within the regional municipality and the location of polling districts.
Once this committee is formed, members will begin the complex work of bringing our two municipalities together. Matters which require research will need to be identified and studies will be completed in various areas. Throughout this process, citizens will have opportunities to attend public meetings to learn more and ask questions.
What are the next steps?
We are in the final stages of hiring the Transition Coordinator. Once this person is in place, we will form the Transition Committee which will begin the complex work of bringing our two municipalities together. Public engagement sessions will continue.
What are you hearing at the public meetings?
There are a range of questions. For example, many residents have questions about how consolidation will impact their taxes. The public meetings provide an opportunity for all residents to ensure they have the facts and are well-informed about the reasons for the consolidation and the benefits it will bring.
Will there be more opportunities for input?
Yes, we will continue to schedule public meetings as we move through the consolidation process. Please keep checking this website for updates or contact the municipalities directly for more information.
What is the status of hiring the Transition Coordinator?
We are in the process of hiring a Transition Coordinator to lead the consolidation process. The position has closed, and we expect to have someone in place by the end of December. The Coordinator will ultimately be neutral to the process and will have no affiliation with either Windsor or West Hants.
I have heard that the Province “downloaded” the hiring of the Transition Coordinator onto the municipalities – is this accurate?
We are working collaboratively with the Province to hire the Transition Coordinator. We posted the position; however, we continue to work with the Province to get this person in place as quickly as possible. The Province will appoint the successful applicant through a Government Order in Council.
Who will be on the Transition Committee?
The committee will consist of the coordinator, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Windsor and the Warden and Deputy Warden of West Hants.
Some citizens are claiming consolidation has been forced on them. Is that an accurate assessment?
No, we are making our own decisions about consolidation and are demonstrating leadership in making decisions which we feel are in the best interests of all residents of both municipalities. Both the Town of Windsor and the Municipality of the District of West Hants passed motions asking the Province to pass legislation.
Why are you working outside of the typical UARB process?
This situation is unique because we are exploring a regional government made up of only Windsor and West Hants. Typically, under the Municipal Government Act, a regional government would be formed from of all the municipalities in a county. At this time only Windsor and West Hants wish to consolidate to form a regional government – which would not be possible under current legislation. Therefore, we created new legislation. The UARB will still have a role in determining the appropriate electoral boundaries.
When will the consolidation be complete?
The consolidation will be complete by April 2020.
What level of funding will the province provide toward this consolidation?
The Province has committed to providing transition funding and is considering further financial support as needs are identified. The Transition Committee has been tasked with coming up with a plan for funding.
What will the funding be spent on this fiscal year?
It will be spent on establishing the transition coordinator and transition committee and any reports that are required to guide the consolidation of the new region.
How many councillors currently serve on the combined councils of Windsor and West Hants?
There are 15 municipal representatives for the combined area of 19,000 people.
Will there be job loss because of the creation of a new municipality?
We have developed a principle to guide this aspect of the consolidation which is: when developing the blended administrative structure of the consolidated community, all efforts should be taken to ensure there is no job loss as a result of the consolidation. Any planned efficiencies should strive to be achieved through attrition and maintaining corporate knowledge should be prioritized.
Why will it take to April 2020 to complete the consolidation?
The coming together of two communities is a complex undertaking. There is a lot of work to be done including studies around human resources and infrastructure. It is anticipated that this work will take until April 2020.
Do the residents of Windsor and West Hants support the consolidation?
There are many varied interests at play, however, for the most part, residents are supportive.
Will communities be consulted during the transition period?
Yes. The Transition Committee is committed to public engagement throughout the process.
What is the role of the Windsor and West Hants Councils during the transition process?
The Transition Committee will lead the transition position; however, the Councils have developed guiding principles that will help the Transition Committee make decisions about the new regional municipality. These guiding principles are on the website.
What is the difference between the term consolidation and amalgamation?
There is no difference. They mean the same thing.
What is the difference between consolidation and dissolution?
Through a dissolution, a municipal unit surrenders its charter and ceases to exist. The assets of the dissolving unit are then absorbed into a neighbouring municipal unit that is willing to accept them.
Through consolidation, both municipal units surrender their charters and cease to exist. The assets of both of those units are then consolidated into a new municipal unit.
What will this consolidation process do to my tax rate? Will my taxes go up?
Tax rates are set each year by Council and are based on services that residents receive. The consolidation process will not increase the tax rate.
Currently residents pay a residential tax rate based on their property assessment. Included in this rate are costs for policing, schools and the education system, corrections and prisons, and garbage/recycling.
In the communities of Hantsport, Three Mile Plains, and Falmouth, residents pay an area rate for such things as side walks, street lights and snow removal which is added to their tax bill. There are also associated costs for residents who use town/municipal water and sewer. Residents who do not directly receive these services do not pay for them.
If this has nothing to do with taxes why are we consolidating?
Consolidation is about much more than tax rates going up or down. It is about the Hants West region having the ability to reinvent itself and move forward as a stronger region.
We have so many great things happening in our area such as the twinning of Highway 101, new sports complexes, world class festivals, new developments, incredible trails and roots strong in history and tradition. The potential for the future of our region is endless.
This consolidation will eliminate the red tape that exists between our two competing municipal units, create a unified vision for growth and development and create efficiencies by reducing duplication of services and resources.
The Council of the new municipal unit will be unified, with a focused approach to making decisions for the entire area. The Special Legislation has added the role of Mayor who will be responsible for and accountable to all residents.
Was the consolidation forced?
The Special Legislation passed by the Province to consolidate the two municipal units was done at the request of the Councils of the Municipality and the Town of Windsor.
Who is paying for this process?
The Province of Nova Scotia has been very gracious to cover the costs of this consolidation process between the Municipality and the Town and has committed to support us moving forward. This will save tax payers the estimated $500,000 in amalgamation costs which might be required for a consolidation process carried out through the Utility and Review Board.
We are not hearing information about what is happening with the consolidation. Why?
Our region is very large. We are fortunate that many of our districts have reliable internet, postal service, cell service etc. but others do not. We continue to strive to discover the best mix of delivery methods that guarantees the message is always delivered 100%.
We are using this website along with our municipal sites, Facebook and Twitter to post information as well there have been Town Hall meetings in our communities to provide the opportunity for residents to discuss concerns and ask questions about the consolidation.
Keep in mind that you can also contact your Warden, Mayor or Councillor at anytime to ask questions or talk about matters that are important to you.
What is a boundary review and how will it affect people in West Hants through consolidation?
A boundary review is a study done by an independent third-party organization to look at the electoral boundaries of a region. The review will determine which Councillor you will vote for during an election. These boundaries are for electoral purposes only and not used for tax purposes.
A boundary review is a vital part of our electoral system as it ensures that every elected official represents roughly the same number of voters. The Municipal Government Act states that each boundary must be within 10% of the average population count of all the boundaries in total. West Hants and Windsor currently have 15 elected representatives in total which could change with the review. The boundary review will be carried out in 2019.
How will debt of each Municipal unit be treated with the consolidation?
How the debt burden of the two units is paid moving forward will be a decision of the new Council. It is anticipated that the debts will remain with each municipal unit, however there is no way to determine the decisions of future Council’s.
Will we lose our identity?
Through the consolidation process, the charters of both the Municipality and the Town will be dissolved but the communities in our regions will remain. Windsor will still be Windsor, Brooklyn will still be Brooklyn, Falmouth will still be Falmouth, Summerville will still be Summerville, so too will Avondale, Ellershouse, Ardoise, Brooklyn, Three Mile Plains, Center Burlington, Hantsport, Ashdale, Sweets Corner, and every other community in our beautiful area. No community will lose its identity.
Will the rural areas lose their voice?
The rural areas in West Hants are our backbone and consist of some of our most engaged residents. Council has committed to ensuring the needs of our rural residents are addressed through the recent creation of the Rural Representation Committee comprising of three councillors of the municipality and four residents from the rural area.