CHARLES TWEED/Ponoka News
The Alberta government wants you to know that funding for municipal infrastructure through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) remains secure; but just how do local politicians feel about the program that allows infrastructure decisions to be made at a municipal level.
The MSI grant has replaced a variety of smaller grants, allowing counties and municipalities to get a better feel of how much funding they will receive annually. It is determined by three main criteria: population of the community, school tax assessment and the total kilometres of road in the area. The percentage of the three criteria has changed slightly since the inception of the program three years ago.
Ponoka County will receive about $2.8 million in MSI funding for 2011 — of that $200,000 will be used for operations while the remaining $2.6 million is capital funding.
Charlie Cutforth, CAO for Ponoka County, is happy with the changes the provincial government has made to funding municipalities and counties.
“In years past any major infrastructure projects were really an iffy proposition depending on whether the province would support it or not. The MSI has taken a lot of the uncertainty out of it…and it’s made our lives far easier,” said Cutforth.
Prior to the changes in funding three years ago, municipalities and counties applied for a number of grants from the provincial government.
The trouble was, local governments found it hard to plan considering they didn’t know which grants they would be approved for and which ones would be rejected until the provincial government made its decision.
The fact that those decisions can be made on more of a local level is another aspect of the program Cutforth likes.
“We have a 10-year capital plan that was created as a result of this fund. We’ve always had a plan but there was never a timeline on it…it sure has helped a lot in that respect. The local municipalities certainly have a lot more money at their discretion to make decisions on,” said Cutforth.
The Town of Ponoka will receive almost $1.3 million in MSI funding for 2011 — of that $100,000 will be used for operating funding with the remaining $1.2 million to be used for capital projects.
Mayor Larry Henkelman echoed Cutforth’s sentiments and felt the fact the program allowed decisions to be made at a local level was something that benefited everyone in the province.
“It’s definitely a great program because it eliminated a large number of grants from the province. It cuts down on paperwork and chops out a bunch of little grants for one large grant,” said Henkelman. “It’s more of a stable amount and we did see an increase this year. We’re really happy with the MSI funding and it’s worked well for us. We used to make out application for each grant and then you never knew if you were getting it or not and how much you were going to get.”
Henkelman and Cutforth agreed that the program has been good for municipalities and counties.
The program is instituted by the province for 10 years beginning in 2007 and running until 2017, at which time it will be reevaluated and Henkelman and Cutforth hope the provincial government continues with the program that allows for more decision-making and flexibility at a local level.