The Hope Town District Council, which is comprised of the communities of Elbow Cay, Man-O-War, Guana Cay and other surrounding cays, held an emergency public meeting on July 23. They announced their budget had been cut by roughly 27 percent. The cut renders the local government for the district impotent and unable to continue necessary services.
The Hope Town District Council found this news, which was relayed to them the day before, disheartening. Chief Councilor Jeremy Sweeting said he and his council were indeed expecting cuts, but what they are faced with now is “the biggest and gravest crisis since the inception of local government.”
Split among the three islands equally would mean each township would have $138,147.97 to work with. For comparison, the Abaco island of Green Turtle Cay has a new budget of $280,000 according to Chief Councilor Greg Curry. The Council raised the question as to why a single island had a budget that was more than half the budget for the three islands of their district combined.
The largest expense for the cays is trash management. Central Government had made an unofficial communication to the Council announcing they would take on waste management transportation responsibilities. However, no official action has been made by Central Government as of press time.
According to Mr. Sweeting, even if those contracts are absorbed into Central Government there would still be a $2,000 shortfall every month.
“The government has broken this district, and is forcing a near shutdown of services,” said Mr. Sweeting.
The Council also revealed a study they conducted reviewing revenue that their district turned in to Nassau. Mr. Sweeting revealed that between the Fuel Taxes, Road Traffic Taxes, Hotel Guest Taxes, Dock Fees and Property Taxes the Hope Town District produces $5.4 million for Central Government.
“I don’t care what party you supported. This is beyond politics. This is about our islands, our communities. They must come first.” Mr. Sweeting continued, “We encourage all of you to take a stand.”
The Council declared they can appreciate the economic challenges facing the country, but these cuts were “shameful,” and that “the Ministry of Finance and Ministry for Local Government did not take the due diligence and time necessary to adequately study what was needed.”
As the meeting closed the question was asked whether the council would resign in solidarity over the issue. Mr. Sweeting said not at this time since they had all taken an oath to serve their communities. However, he indicated, without any changes they may have no choice.