South Peace News
The Town of High Prairie council faces challenges with funding cuts for provincial capital grants in the coming few years.
Cuts to the Municipal Sustainability Initiative [MSI] program were announced in the provincial budget Feb. 25.
Mayor Brian Panasiuk says cuts will hurt the town and taxpayers.
“The concern around the budget is that the MSI funding for the next three years is going to be reduced by around 25 per cent,” Panasiuk says.
“This, combined with increases in police funding, the transfer of costs for disaster recovery programs to the municipalities, and the inability to collect on unpaid linear tax assessments will all combine to what will inevitably lead to future increases in municipal taxes.”
Panasiuk is relieved that MSI funding has increased in 2021 to stimulate the economy in the economic downturn and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cuts to MSI are scheduled to start in 2022.
Days after the budget was presented, the government announced that municipalities would be required to pay 10 per cent of recovery cost to repair damage from natural disasters, such as flooding and wildfires.
All is not doom and gloom in the budget.
“From our municipality’s perspective the budget has some good points, specifically the funding for libraries, FCSS and the education requisition has remained the same as 2020,” Panasiuk says.
Alberta Urban Municipalities Association [AUMA] is also concerned about the government’s plan to reduce MSI funding and the Local Government Fiscal Framework [LGFF].
“It is unfortunate that the government’s commitment to funding municipal infrastructure has diminished,” AUMA president Barry Mori- shita says in a news release Feb. 26.
“While Budget 2021 increases MSI funding this year, the long-awaited LGFF is being deferred until 2024.”
Over the long term, he says, municipalities require stable and predictable funding to ensure economic growth and recovery.