Lacombe City Council was presented with the potential financial implications of covering a portion of the costs associated with the expansion of the Lacombe Athletic Park.
Earlier this year, the Lacombe Athletic Park Association announced they have received a donation of $2 million from MEGlobal to help fund their proposed $4 million expansion to the park.
The remaining $2 million is to be covered through the potential combination of grants and support from both the City and Lacombe County.
Lacombe’s potential contribution — if LAPA is unable to find any grant funding — could be as much as $1.4 million, which would be equal to a 1.07 per cent property tax increase for Lacombe residents.
Mayor Grant Creasey said more than one per cent would be difficult for the City to commit to considering their strategic goal to keep tax increases at the Consumer Price Index (Inflation), which last year was 2.8 per cent.
“People will look at a number like one per cent and say, ‘That’s no big deal’,” he said. “In fact, it is a substantial deal because we have made a serious commitment to our citizens to keep our tax increase capped at the Consumer Price Index, which last year was 2.8 per cent. One per cent of that would be huge.”
If LAPA is able to gain access to a Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) grant, the contribution from the City would drop to $266,667, which would be equal to a .40 property tax increase.
Alternatively, if the LAPA are able to gain access to a Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP), the City’s contribution would be $666,667, which would represent a .59 per cent tax increase.
If LAPA were able to access both grants, the City’s contribution would be $0, but it would still represent a .20 property tax increase due to the City covering the cost of insurance and an increase to the City’s operating costs.
Although most on Council felt the full $1.4 million was an unlikely outcome, Council was reticent to show full support for the project given the impact on taxpayers.
“It is important for us to realize that these decisions do have consequences and generally result in taxes all of us pay on our property,” Creasey said. “We are well aware of this and it great to have this information to make proper decisions and have that information in our back pocket prior to the next presentation by LAPA.”
Creasey said they are appreciative of the work by LAPA and the generous donation by MEGlobal, but worried that having private entities influence public decisions is a problematic venture.
“As for MEGlobal, the are a very powerful partner for LAPA to have and for them to step forward with that kind of contribution is pretty amazing,” he said. “With that in mind, we cannot let that drive our decisions at City Hall.
“For an outside entity to have that much influence on what we do is a very dangerous road to go down.”
Council still has time to debate the issue, with the LAPA making a presentation to Council on Feb. 11th
“It will come again before Council with a more detailed business plan from the LAPA management, which will be interesting to see.,” Creasey said. “From there we will have some time to digest it.
“As you heard from our CAO(Matthew Goudy), we will be hearing the results of the grants before making any kind of decision. For the time being it is a wait and see.”