MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - The municipality will be receiving an additional $168,326 in Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding under the 2023 provincial budget released last week.
The new funding will double the operating costs portion of the grant from 2021. MSI funding can be used to pay for local infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and recreation facilities.
Budget 2023 allocates a total of $485 million to MSI provincewide.
“Long term, the county remains disappointed that provincial transfers to support municipal finances has been reduced by 37 per cent from historical MSI funding levels over the past 10 years,” Mountain View County Reeve Angela Aalbers told the Albertan.
“However there is positive news that the province plans to increase the Revenue Index Factor for the Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF) from 50 per cent to 100 per cent.”
The LGFF will replace the MSI program next year. More than $700 million LGFF capital funding is projected for 2024.
The increase to LGFF will potentially increase overall anticipated municipal transfers by 12.6 per cent in 2025-26 resulting in a total LGFF of $722 million in 2024-25, increasing to $813 million in 2025-26, she noted.
“The province has not yet determined the funding allocation of the LGFF and Mountain View County remains concerned that a significant portion of the grant will be allocated to the largest urban centres, such as Calgary and Edmonton, and that rural municipalities will get a lower share of the funding than we currently see through the MSI distribution,” she said.
Significant interest to property owners in the county will be the 2023 one-year freeze on the province’s share of property taxes, she noted.
“The education requisition collected by the county on behalf of province will remain at the same rate as 2022,” she said. “In future years, the provincial requisition is set to increase from the current total of $2.5 billion to $2.6 billion in 2024, and $2.7 billion the year after.”
Meanwhile, funding for the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program (STIP) is planned to increase from $35 million to $43 million.
“The STIP grant funds projects such as bridge repairs and replacements and airport runway extensions,” she said. “Historically, the province was responsible for funding repair and replacement of all bridges.
“While the funding increase is welcome, past decisions by the government of Alberta to download bridge funding responsibilities onto municipalities has created funding challenges for rural municipalities.
“With such a minimal STIP grant amount and high municipal competition for this grant, the county has historically had little success accessing significant funding.”
Aalbers noted that there are additional parts of the budget that should help support the county’s strategic initiatives and programs,
Part of the budget that should support the county’s strategic initiatives and programs include $3 million in grant funding committed in support of local public library boards, provincial highway maintenance funding increased from $345 million to $402 million, agricultural service board increase in operating funding from $8.9 million in 2022-23 to $12 million in 2023-24.
There are other announcements in the budget related to provincial responsibilities such as health care and the provincial justice system, which the county believes will have a positive impact on our residents, she said.
“Although most projects have not been identified yet, the announcement of $180 million for rural health facilities for revitalization and capital projects will hopefully result in investment into health-care facilities within the county,” she said.
“In the coming months, county council and administration will be focusing on opportunities to work with the province on delivering funding commitments announced and will be exploring options for local infrastructure projects, including seeking to enhance opportunities for rural broad band access.”
Didsbury will get additional $172,000
Meanwhile, Town of Didsbury Mayor Rhonda Hunter says the additional MSI funding in 2023 is welcome.
“They are going to increase the MSI operational budget from $30 million to $60 million, so that should be about $172,000 more for Didsbury,” Hunter told the Albertan. “It’s good news for our municipality.
“The money can only be used for operating expenses – you can’t use it for any capital – so that will be allocated to offset deficits for some of our facilities and generally that is the use.”
Carstairs mayor Lance Colby was not immediately available for comment on Budget 2023.