The mayor of Conception Harbor says the rural Newfoundland town is owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes and municipal subsidies, and until the situation is resolved, services like trash collection and street lighting will be affected .
On Aug. 28, the city announced in a Facebook post that trash pickup would be delayed.
In another post three days later, following questions from residents about why trash wasn’t being picked up, Mayor Craig Williams described problems with the city’s finances.
The city doesn’t know who owes taxes or how much they owe, he wrote, and under provincial privacy legislation, he wrote, the city doesn’t have access to that information.
“We are in the process of hiring a temporary city clerk,” wrote Williams, who declined an interview request from Breaking:.
In addition to the loss of tax revenue, Williams’ Facebook post said, the town on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, with a population of 624 at the 2021 census, has not received operating grants from the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs.
“In order for the city to obtain our municipal operating grants, we have to submit audited financial statements,” he wrote. “There is a delay in our 2021 and 2022 financial statements due to ongoing issues before the courts.”
A review of the city’s finances has been conducted and a significant gap in tax collection has been identified.– Department of Municipal Affairs
Williams did not explain what the legal issue is or whether it is related to former City Manager and Clerk Bonnie Lynn Wade, who faces 31 counts of fraud, theft and breach of trust.
Court documents show the fraud charges stem from allegations that Wade used a city credit card 10 times, spending a total of $3,600.
Wade is due back in court next week, when he is expected to enter a guilty plea.
Overdue accounts go to court
Williams’ post said the council is working with the city auditor and Municipal Affairs to address its financial situation. The city will also take residents who are more than two years in arrears to small claims court, she warned.
Meanwhile, he outlined a list of expenses the city is struggling to cover. Garbage collection costs $8,000 a month, she said, and street lighting costs $4,000 a month.
“We will reduce the lighting by at least half,” he wrote. Snow clearing is necessary six months a year, she added, and the contract costs $7,500 a month, with ice control materials costing an additional $1,500 a month.
According to the mayor’s post, the unpaid poll tax owed in 2021 was $251,393, and he said the city expects that figure to have doubled in 2022. The city’s poll tax, a flat tax that applies to all for residents 18 and older, it is $425 a year. raised by council in December of $375.
In a statement to Breaking:, the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs said it is aware of the situation and is working with city officials to help them resolve their financial issues.
“A review of the city’s finances has been conducted and a significant gap in tax collection has been identified,” the statement read.
“The department is in the process of appointing a comptroller to work with the city to take necessary actions to address its financial situation. These include having the city increase tax recovery measures and complete outstanding audits dating back to 2020”.
The city was awarded a $30,000 special assistance grant last year to help with operating expenses, according to the release.
City wants municipal operating subsidies released
Williams also wrote that the city has asked the department to release what he says it is owed in unpaid municipal operating grants to pay for trash collection and meet the city’s financial obligations.
In an email, Municipal Affairs said the city has requested about $58,000.
In his August 31 post, Williams said the council and its maintenance team were working to resolve the situation.
“We could have easily resigned or had Municipal Affairs appoint an administrator since we asked them to do so, but they understand the problems we have and are helping us correct them.”
On Wednesday, Williams posted again on the city’s Facebook page, saying a Municipal Affairs representative would be at the city office working with its auditor at the end of the week.
The department has said, via email, that it is looking for a comptroller and plans to have one in the city soon.
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