Mayor candidates weigh in on municipal spending watch report
The Canadian Federation of Indpendent Business ranked St. Albert as 51st 'worst' municipal spender
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 06:00 am
2000-2011 population growth: 16 per cent
2000-2011 real operating spending growth: 100 per cent
2000-2011 real operating spending per capita growth: 72 per cent
2011 operating spending per capita: $1,419
– Numbers from CFIB Alberta Municipal Spending Watch 2013
An analysis by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business of Alberta municipalities’ spending ranked St. Albert as the 51st “worst” of 181 cities, towns and counties.
The 2013 Alberta Municipal Spending Watch was released in September, and ranks most municipalities in Alberta with populations of 1,000 or above. The explanation in the report is that two measures are given equal weight when it comes to the ranking, real operating spending per capita growth from 2000-2011 and 2011 operating spending per capita.
St. Albert’s numbers showed a 16 per cent population growth over the specified years and a 100 per cent growth in operating spending. Operating spending per capita growth was calculated at 72 per cent and the 2011 operating spending per capita listed in the report for the city is $1,419.
When ranking Alberta’s 20 largest municipalities, St. Albert was sixth “worst.” It was fourth “worst” on the list of Alberta’s cities.
Both mayoral candidates weighed in on the CFIB report.
Shelley Biermanski said she thought the report was valid and that spending’s up in a big way for what she said is a minimal increase in population.
“It’s obvious if you look at any of the reports that we’re way over-spending,” Biermanski said.
She said she believes a lot of the spending has to do with the increase in city staff.
“We’re just taxing the people to support the people,” she said. “That’s part of my platform, that we can’t maintain that kind of spending.”
She said the “excess at the top” of administration is where the spending issue is.
“I’m not against people that are doing a solid job, I’m against jobs that aren’t solid, that are wasteful. There’s got to be that when you have that much excess staff,” she said, adding she believes the city does need the front-line service jobs.
In a large business, they’d tackle the issue, she said, but in government it seems like it doesn’t matter as much.
“And it should matter, it should matter more because it’s the people’s money you’re looking after.”
Incumbent Nolan Crouse said he did feel the report is valid, but noted “it depends on which chart is the most important to you.
“The one that matters the most to me is there’s a chart they regularly publish that is spending per capita,” Crouse said, adding that compares cities to cities instead of cities to a municipality like a county, where the spending patterns are different.
“There’s probably only about five or six comparators in Alberta,” Crouse said, noting St. Albert should be compared to small urban cities.
“(We’re) probably in the middle of the pack, probably in pretty good shape in terms of spending per capita,” Crouse said.
The spending increases as presented in the CFIB’s report don’t take into account changes that have occurred in terms of municipal funding, he said.
“In the last 12 years, changes in grant programs, changes in just the overall economy change,” Crouse said. “Spending by the way is not linear with population. You cannot compare the two.”
Still, Crouse did say the city should be concerned about watching its spending.
“The short answer is yes, we should be concerned. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve really worked hard at this in the last five years, this two to three per cent, not really breaking over top of that three per cent mark as far as tax increases are concerned,” Crouse said.