President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Joe Ceci presents Budget 2017 March 16 in the legislative assembly. Premier Rachel Notley (r) and Deputy Minister Sarah Hoffam (l) look on.

MSI funding sees slight increase for Ponoka municipalities

Ponoka County and the Town of Ponoka will see a slight increase to its MSI funding in the Alberta Budget 2017.

For both local municipalities, last week’s provincial budget left them wanting more.

Town of Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett and Ponoka County Reeve Paul McLauchlin welcomed the news that the provincial NDP government extended the funding for the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI), which had been due to end.

For the county, it had expected an MSI contribution of $3 million and received almost $172,000 more than anticipated. As well, five highway paving upgrade projects will be completed in the county this summer. That includes a three kilometre stretch of Secondary Highway 815, two kms of Secondary Highway 795, Highway 53 between Highway 2 and 2A plus a major upgrade of the Highway 2A and Township Road 424 intersection.

McLauchlin noted this is a spending budget and he is wondering how long before things fall to earth.

“Although we obviously appreciate the funding provided, we would be remiss to believe that the other shoe will not drop eventually,” he stated.

“This budget emphasizes a need for prudence. Now remember, Ponoka County has one of the lowest taxes in Alberta, lowest staffing per capita and has no debt. If the province was run with the same fiscal responsibility as Ponoka County, we would be in a much different place than we are now.”

He added many years ago, the county council of the day pushed to no longer rely on the province to help drive its operations and services.

“That is why we are where we are today; on the shoulders of fiscally conservative giants. If the province turned off the MSI tap, we would provide the same service and staffing levels as we do currently just no pavement and no donations,” he stated.

Education worries

Meanwhile, Bonnett was pleased, though somewhat disappointed in the small $15,000 increase in the town’s MSI funding.

“The government kept the MSI capital portion at the current levels and provided the town with an increase on the operating side, it was a surprise that they extended the program we thought was coming to an end,” he stated.

“Though, we did think that increase should have been closer to $40,000 considering the rise in our population, if the government had maintained the way it was calculated previously.”

Where Bonnett felt let down was in the lack of a long-term stable funding model for municipalities, especially given the fact the province wants towns to come up with five-year and 10-year plans for operations and capital spending respectively.

“The province is also talking out of both sides of its mouth. They want five-year operation and 10-year capital spending plans, but it’s hard to do that when municipalities don’t have solid funding from year to year. It really makes it difficult to plan for the future if you aren’t sure what money you’ll have.”

One other issue Bonnett had with the budget is what the education portion of the town’s property taxes will be. He stated that the province has assured municipalities it isn’t increasing, but wondered if the $50 million reduction in student fees will be recouped through the requisition.

“That’s my fear, that the money will be taken out of municipalities to make up for that cut. We won’t know for sure until the government lets us know what that figure is, but I can’t see where else it would come from because the government didn’t cut jobs or anything else,” he said.

 

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Ice racing at Mulhurst Bay at Pigeon Lake

Results of the ice racing event at Pigeon Lake

Maskwacis RCMP lay charges from home invasion

Four charged in alleged invasion using knives and gun on Samson Cree Nation - three injured

UPDATE: Highway 2 lanes were closed due to milk truck fire near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Ponoka Airport taxiway improvement costs overrun

The $328,000 project increased to $359,000, gravel cited as main reason for the increase

Ponoka County council looks at how it sees collaboration

County wants separate negotiations with Ponoka, Rimbey

WATCH: Ponoka residents enjoy first skate on ice path

A community initiative helped create a skate path for families in Ponoka.

Suspected Toronto serial killer targeting gay community arrested

A 66-year-old man is charged with first-degree murder in disappearance of two Toronto men

Barenaked Ladies, Steven Page, to be inducted into Canadian Music Hall of Fame

Canadian band to get top honours at 2018 JUNO Awards

B.C. out of the running for Amazon’s next headquarters

Toronto is the only Canadian city left in the running despite the province backing Metro Vancouver’s bid for new Amazon headquarters

Post interest rate hike debt tips

What to do about your debt and mortgages after the interest rate hike

Foreign workers sleeping in Alberta Burger King basement

Alberta Health Services said its inspectors found foreign workers sleeping in the basement of the Lethbridge restaurant

Court application halts release of bread price-fixing documents

Bread price-fixing documents won’t be unsealed Thursday, Loblaw says

Pharrell and N.E.R.D to headline NBA All-Star halftime show

11-time Grammy winner Pharrell and his hip hop-rock band N.E.R.D. will headline the halftime show at the 2018 NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles

Heritage Minister wants zero tolerance for harassment in entertainment industry

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly had two meetings to discuss harassment in the film, TV and theatre worlds

Most Read