The City of Merritt has received more than $2 million as a one-time payment as part of the $1 billion the provincial government is sending to municipalities from its $5.7 billion surplus.

The funding comes as a part of the new Growing Communities Fund, established by the province to distribute a portion of its surplus between all of B.C.’s 188 municipalities and regional districts. Announced in February, the funds were distributed late last month, with the City of Merritt benefiting to the tune of $2,891,000.

Mayor Mike Goetz told the Herald that council will discuss the planned use of the funding at a meeting in the coming weeks, and expects the money to go towards a infrastructure capital project in the upcoming budget. 

The province said in a press release that local governments are responsible for determining the use for the new funding, and required to report on the use of funds in their annual audited financial statements. The Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) said the direct funding will ensure the most pressing issues are addressed first.

“The transfer of these funds provides massive investments for every local government in the province,” said Jen Ford, president of UBCM.

“This new funding will allow communities to accelerate the replacement of aging systems, and expansion to current services to better meet the demands of growing populations. The approach of providing funding upfront will ensure that these funds are directed to the most urgent priorities identified in each community.”

The Thompson Nicola Regional District received $5.4 million from the fund, with the TNRD’s board also considering options for their portion of the surplus, with the regional district’s strategic planning also underway.

The new funding was distributed using a formula that incorporated an initial $500,000 per municipality or regional district, with further adjustments being made for population size and per-capita population growth between 2016 and 2021, based on BC Statistics data from that time frame. 

“I know that our local governments are working hard to keep up with the growing demands of their communities. Through cross-government co-operation, we can address the unique needs in each community to ensure they can thrive into the future,” said Anne Kang, minister of municipal affairs. 

“These grants will support projects that each community needs the most, like new affordable housing and child care facilities, road improvements or recreation centres.”

The province added that their method for calculating the amount of funds to distribute per municipality considered the impacts of service and amenity demands on smaller and rural communities, and the additional pressures experienced by faster-growing communities. Each municipality will have the final say on the use for the new funding.