The Blackfalds census results were released last month leading to several changes in government funding proportions as well as other applications.
According to the official release from the Town of Blackfalds, the population of Blackfalds is now 8,793 – a 12% increase in population from last year’s census. As well, the total residential dwelling count is now 3,917 units.
The census was conducted between May 1st and June 30th, utilizing door-to-door and online collection services. From 2013 to 2014, the Town experienced a growth of 531 people. At the time of the 2015 census assessment, results state that the population of Blackfalds has grown by 935 people.
“We’ve seen the impacts of more people moving into the Town for a couple of years now. What it means moving forward is that we will take these new numbers to the Province and that’s how we justify and argue for continued support through grants,” said Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol.
“The Province of Alberta has several grants that are based on per capita, and that’s where the big winners are. The Street Improvement Grant is $60 per person – so just in that one grant alone, with 935 more people, it’s a $56,000 increase the next time that grant is given, which is annually. In turn, we take that money and invest it into road improvements.”
Other funding sources that are based on population growth include the Policing Grant and recently announced increases in funding for Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) programs.
“We recently received an email that with the Interim Supply Budget, FCSS funding has been increased by $10 million. They have now figured out how that’s going to be distributed – all programs will receive an increase of 10 per cent, which accounts for $7.5 million of those $10 million,” Stol said.
“Plus, programs that experience population increases will receive greater than that 10 per cent, but we don’t know how much.”
The issue and implications will be discussed at the next regular Town of Blackfalds council meeting.
Stol said the census affects things like infrastructure planning, but the Town is lucky to have fairly new infrastructure. Mostly, the focus is on maintenance.
“I think that every time you grow, you have to consider the infrastructure maintenance. As we become more of a regional thought in our community – we do a lot of partnering with Lacombe and Lacombe County – it’s still about making sure the right types of infrastructure exist in town, while using a regional system for other things. That could be certain community amenities.”
Stol said Blackfalds residents are lucky they have partnerships with the surrounding communities, because it allows for the Town to explore the best use of its money within the municipality.
“There are a lot of applications with the census, and a lot different people that can use it to do strategic thinking about a growing community,” she said.
“We don’t simply have to build one of everything because we have ‘x’ many people –we have to think about regional services. When we see growth happening in Blackfalds, it’s also up to our regional partners and neighbours to consider how those amenities will change.”
As well, Stol said the census provides an excellent tool for business owners to do strategic location planning if they are looking for somewhere to grow their industry, particularly in the professional services industry.
“We have to look at the broad applications of what a census can do. It affects business people – they can look at our growth average and really recognize that Blackfalds is a great place to invest or start a service-type business, like lawyers, accountants, and optometrists – those kinds of services,” she explained.
“There are new people coming here, moving from all sorts of places. Those types of professional personal services I mentioned are desperately needed in Blackfalds.”