Ponoka County not adversely affected by provincial budget

Ponoka County CAO Charlie Cutforth is pleased with how the Government of Alberta has retained the MSI funding grant.

While no large surprises came out of the provincial budget, revealed late last month, Ponoka County CAO Charlie Cutforth is pleased with how the Government of Alberta has retained the MSI funding grant.

“I thought there would be some reduction, as it turns out there’s no reduction,” said Cutforth.

“We never got a hit this year, I think because an election’s looming,” he added. This leaves the county with $3.4 million in MSI funding.

With some extensive capital projects on the radar this year, totaling $8 million, Cutforth is pleased a lack of funding will not stint progress. “It (MSI) makes our capital budget look even better.”

Ponoka County is scheduled to pave five and a half miles of Iola Road this year, which is located west of Highway 20, west of Rimbey. “That road is a major artery to all the oil field both in the west end of our county and Clearwater County,” said Cutforth.

The Iola Road project is estimated to cost $5 million. Another $1 million will go toward a bridge replacement on Lloyd Creek, near the Rimbey Gas Plant, two boat launches and an intersection near Gull Lake will come in at $1.2 million, rebuilding and expanding the waste transfer site to a three-bay unit will cost $700,000 and another $1 million is slated to go rebuilding a paving an access road west of Highway 2.

The majority of the county’s operating budget will be spent on general road maintenance, says Cutforth.

Trucking and placing gravel on the roads will cost $1 million and $1.2 million worth of gravel will be used. Chip sealing and dust control will total $1.6 million.

“We’re planning on rebuilding 10 miles of county roads, in various locations,” said Cutforth; the expense of the endeavor is $3 million.

The Alberta government increased school requisitions for municipalities in its budget, but Cutforth says if the county residents feel any, impact it will be negligible. The requisition increased from $6.9 million to $7.6 million.

Sitting at a rate of 1.69, county residents will see no tax increase from the county this year. “It’s the lowest in the province,” said Cutforth.

If residents do see a small increase or decrease on their bill, it is because assessment values changed, says Cutforth.

“Ponoka County is sitting on solid reserves. If things went totally sideways we’d be just fine,” said Cutforth.

Better practices

Cutforth explains the county relies on only itself to generate its operating budget and if it ever lost all government funding, services would proceed as normal, simply with a smaller capital budget.

Cutforth feels this is a practice all governing bodies should take under advisement.

“There’s huge cost savings to be had if they’d (Government of Alberta) just do it,” said Cutforth.

“There’s huge democratic overload in some of those departments. It would mean a lot of people would lose their jobs at the provincial level,” he added. He feels a 5 per cent roll back does nothing to quench the public’s anger with the government.