Discussion

The most significant risks to the Town of Shelburne’s long term sustainability are that:

  • The steadily decreasing population (16.5% decrease between 1991 and 2006) will continue to decline and assessment values will follow over time;
  • The relatively high commercial tax rate in the Town of Shelburne2 (more than twice the commercial rate in the neighbouring municipality) will discourage new businesses from locating in the Town and existing businesses to consider relocating outside the Town.
Currently the Town has no resources dedicated to either economic development or planning, both of which are central to addressing these risks.

There were two options identified by the Project Advisory Committee to be reviewed to determine which to pursue further in the short-term:

  1. Remain a town and pursue strategies to increase population and attract business,
  2. Voluntarily amalgamate with a nearby municipality(s).
Both of these options contain a variety of sub-options (for example expanding joint or shared services, forming a Village or Community Committee etc.).

Voluntarily amalgamating with the Municipality of the District of Shelburne (MDS) offers the more straightforward route to addressing the key risks to long term sustainability for the Town of Shelburne:

Decreasing Population

MDS is also facing a population decline at a rate similar to the Town of Shelburne3. MDS also has little or no economic development or planning resources dedicated to addressing the issue. Amalgamation would support development of a coordinated, strategic approach and allow sharing/leveraging of resources.

Commercial Taxes

Under an amalgamation scenario the commercial tax rate is projected to decrease by 30-50%. Although amalgamation would support a coordinated, strategic approach to commercial taxation, it is the lower cost responsibilities in a rural municipality that would result in lower commercial taxes.

Voluntary amalgamation would also decrease the likelihood of competition between municipalities for residents and businesses.

 

RAMP Up Consulting recommends against pursuing amalgamation at this time because:

  1. Relationships with surrounding municipalities are still developing and are not yet at the level required to undertake the type of coordinated effort that a voluntary amalgamation effort would entail.
  2. The Town of Shelburne organization is not ready – there are a number of organizational issues identified in the Operational Review that should be addressed before amalgamation could be undertaken.
  3. Many residents of Shelburne are not ready or convinced – they have many questions and there is not a clear consensus that amalgamation is the best approach. There are some residents who are strongly for or against pursuing amalgamation and a large number who are undecided.
  4. Shelburne has the strengths and resources that would allow it to succeed on its own as a Town:
    • Unique, heritage community,
    • Sound financial situation,
    • Ability to devote additional resources to economic development and planning (internal re-alignment of resources and borrowing capacity),
    • Positive energy toward taking action within community.