Ponoka seeks letters of support for grant funding battle

Mayor Rick Bonnett is seeking support from area municipalities with Ponoka’s push for grants

Mayor Rick Bonnett

Mayor Rick Bonnett is seeking support from area municipalities with Ponoka’s push to gain access to provincial funds.

Last month the province announced a share of its property taxes in Calgary’s Victoria Park would be relinquished to the City of Calgary to help spur development.

This is estimated to see $700 million reinvested in that area.

It’s a similar program to what Mayor Rick Bonnett has been seeking for Ponoka’s proposed field house, however, it remains out of reach for the town. The mayor sees this type of grant as something the town needs.

“We look at it (the field house) as a huge economic driver,” said Bonnett.

The program, called the Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) is not a new one. It was created to help revitalize blighted areas, explained Mike Brown, cabinet communications, for the finance ministry.

“CRLs are not intended to be used for greenfield development and therefore the field house project would likely not qualify under the program,” said Brown.

How it works is the education property tax the province normally takes for education stays with the municipality to use for development. One of the stated benefits of the CRL is that it improves infrastructure and environmental conditions, plus creates a larger tax base.

There are five areas in the province where a CRL is in place:

• Calgary Rivers District CRL (2008)

• Edmonton Quarters Downtown CRL (2010)

• Edmonton Belvedere CRL (2010)

• Cochrane South-Central CRL (2012)

• Edmonton Capital City Downtown CRL (2013)

In November, the town announced plans to withhold its share of education property taxes until it has about $4.5 million. The CRL announcement in Calgary only solidified the mayor’s and council’s resolve in the matter.

“We’ve got some outside the box ideas, and they (the province) responded with nothing,” stated Bonnett.

It has spurred him to advocate for Ponoka with other municipalities. The mayor will be speaking with other councils asking for letters of support for the plan.

When asked if there was risk of competing for grants with those municipalities, Bonnett said many communities aren’t “shovel ready” like Ponoka’s field house project.

“I’ve got the support of my council to go,” said Bonnett of the campaign.

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) sees the CRL as an opportunity for many communities, but approval is limited.

“AUMA is aware that trying to access funding through the Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) has been difficult for some of our members, and we have been advocating to the province since the Town of Old’s resolution was passed at our convention in 2014 to lift the suspension of the CRL program,” states the association in an email.

The association also suggests this type of program would allow funding opportunities without the province actually having to invest into a project.

“Despite being told the program was suspended in 2014, the province has continued to grant CRL programs, including the City of Edmonton and most recently extension to the program for the City of Calgary,” states AUMA.

Despite the recent announcement in Calgary, the province states it’s in the final stages of reviewing the CRL.

“The government recently announced an extension of an already existing CRL in the City of Calgary. Applications for new CRLs are not currently being considered as government is in the final stages of completing a review of the CRL program,” explained Brown.


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