Despite the earlier indications that the 2015-2016 provincial budget could have consequences on the City of Lacombe’s operations and the community as a whole, the budget presented on March 26th will not affect the municipality’s 2015 capital budget, but will have an impact on this year’s operating budget.
“While we understand the fiscal restraints faced by the provincial government and we are willing to do our part in tightening our belts, we had hoped that they would not try to balance the budget on the back of municipalities,” said Mayor Steve Christie. “For example, as we delve further into the budget, we are finding that the Alberta Government is not paying the taxes on provincially-owned social housing in our community, which means a $72,000 tax revenue loss to our City.”
The following is a summary of key funding provincial government programs and departments and their impact on the City of Lacombe.
Municipal Sustainability Initiative
The program was expected to be reduced by 50% over 2014 with no funding at all by 2016. Instead the grant remains at 2014 levels. This means an additional $47,000 in operating money for 2015.
Regional Collaboration Grant
The Regional Collaboration Grant is a project specific program designed for regional initiatives and intended to replace the MSI Operating Program. This program was reduced from $48.839 million to $19.239 million. This is of concern to the City as it has a $300,000 joint grant submission with the County for the IDP review currently awaiting approval.
Funding for the City’s library will see an increase of $0.10 per capita based on 2014 population figures. The library board will see a grant of $70,640 compared with $63,945 in 2014. This includes an increase in per capita funding as well.
Emergency Management Agency
The Alberta Emergency Management Agency provides $150,000 in annual grants for training. This grant remains unchanged.
Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI)
With the additional funding announced in March of this year, the City’s overall MSI Capital Funding will increase by $109,434 from $2.12 million to $2.24 million due to population growth. Funding has been identified at the same levels for the next several years before seeing a decline in 2019/20. The March 2015 announcement did not result in any additional funding.
Basic Municipal Transportation Grant
This funding follows the same trend as the MSI capital. Funding remains stable until 2019/20. Funding for 2015 will increase by $61,260 from 769,810 due to population growth.
Federal Gas Tax Fund
The Federal Gas Tax Fund is funding provided by the Federal Government but administered by the province. This funding remains stable for the next five years. The City’s grant will increase by $31,017 from $636,222 to $667,239 due to population growth.
For the seventh year in a row, funding for FCSS services remains unchanged. The City’s funding for 2015 will be the same as it was in 2014 at $251,687.
The City receives two grants for policing. The first is the Municipal Policing Assistant Grant, which is equal to $200,000 plus $8 per capita. This grant and along with the New Police Officers Grant which pays $100,000 towards the annual cost of a police officer remains in place for 2015. The City will receive a slightly higher amount over 2014 because of increased population.
The province announced a 35% increase in fine rates for a variety of provincial statute offences. The City may see an increase in overall fine revenue based on this increase. It is yet to be identified how much will be shared with the municipality and how much will be retained by the province.
Municipal Water and Wastewater Grant
The province maintained funding for this program at $25 million. This program would fund a percentage of water and or wastewater programs. Most funding is allocated to treatment projects and is based on a project-by-project basis. The maximum amount the City could receive would be 30% of the total cost.
Water For Life Program
The province has reduced funding further from the original high of $100 million in 2009 to the current $30 million, a reduction of $20 million from last year. The City is looking towards this program to fund the regional wastewater line project. The province has indicated that water project funding will increase from $86 million in 2015 to $135 million in 2018.
Green TRIP Program
The provincial transit program has been reduced from $246.9 million to $185 million.
The province has announced that the school tax levy will fluctuate from year to year starting in 2016. The current formula is based on 32% of the school costing for the province as a whole. For 2015 the school requisition in Lacombe will increase from $4,069,496 to $4,136,029 or 1.63%, a $66,533 increase.
The City will see an additional increase in fuel costs due to the increase in fuel tax. The exact number is not yet known.
Payment in Lieu of Taxes
Municipalities will see a $21 million reduction in revenues due to the elimination of the Alberta Social Housing Corporation’s Payment in Lieu of Municipal Property Taxes Program (PILT). Housing management bodies will no longer receive grant funding to cover property tax assessments for provincially and municipally-owned social housing units. This funding reduction makes up the majority of the decrease in the Community Housing program, with the remainder of the decrease owing to one-time nominal sum disposal charges in 2014-15. The direct impact to the City of Lacombe is $73,000 in lost tax revenue.
The province will be developing a new provincial housing strategy to assist in affordable housing.
“Council will make a decision on the 2015 municipal tax rate in April after reviewing the necessary operating budget adjustments,” said City of Lacombe Chief Administrative Officer Norma MacQuarrie.