By Karlene Skretting and Nick Kuhl
Southern Alberta Newspapers
In advance of the forthcoming 2015/16 provincial budget local municipalities will receive a combined total of just over $511,000 of additional funding from last year’s Alberta budget.
The money, announced on March 6, is part of the government’s Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) from budget 2014/15, of which an additional $400 million will be provided to assist municipalities in meeting infrastructure commitments.
The Town of Raymond is set to receive $271,283, with the Town of Magrath and the Village of Stirling allocated for $163,302 and $76,626 respectively.
The allotted funding will go through the proper channels, with the municipalities respective CAO’s putting forth recommendations and council then voting on how to best use it.
“We hope this is an indication on the part of the provincial government that you cannot cut back on infrastructure expenses just because the economy may slow down,” said Raymond Mayor George Bohne in a follow up statement.
Magrath Mayor Russ Barnett and Stirling Mayor Ben Nilsson echoed the same response, all three of the Mayors were glad to hear the announcement, saying that the money will help their municipalities recover from infrastructure deficits.
“We appreciate the provincial government recognizing the fact that all of our towns suffer from infrastructure deficits and that these contributions are going to help us, especially little towns, so that we can continue to fix and correct,” added Mayor Barnett.
Mayor Nilisson noted that the money “will go a long way in a community of our size … especially with looming budget worries on the horizon.”
Going forward the top projects on the list to fund in Raymond include Victoria Park, the Ice Arena, Broadband expansion, storm water management and street improvements.
But Mayor Bohne was quick to point out, that while the money is great, it will not cover all of the infrastructure expenses that communities have.
As for Magrath, the top three priorities that will be discussed and debated are extending services to the west side of town, paving a block or street and servicing the industrial lots on the east side of town.
In Stirling, council will contemplate where the MSI money will best be allocated in regards to dealing with aging infrastructure, specifically roads and water/sewer/drainage issues around the community.
“I think the government is investing in the future with these additional funds. In my opinion, strong, healthy communities make a strong province. Many communities in the province are dealing the best they can with aging infrastructure and any additional moneys are greatly appreciated,” added Mayor Nilsson.
“The key is not to get too excited about the current cash bonus but to watch carefully for the March 26 budget and see how our government plans on treating municipalities during these tough economic times,” pointed out Mayor Bohne.
The MSI program, with the new money set to become available in the coming weeks, is based on municipal populations, education property tax requisitions and kilometres of local roads. Municipalities will be advised of their forthcoming 2015 funding allocations after the provincial budget has been announced and specific funding allocations have been authorized by the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
“Our government is committed to supporting infrastructure that promotes economic development, supports the province’s economy and keeps Albertans working,” said Premier Jim Prentice in a prepared media release.
“With this in mind, we are providing $400 million from this year’s budget to ensure municipalities have the capacity to meet their current infrastructure project commitments.”