St. Albert's spending is unsustainable: writer
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 06:00 am
St. Albert spending 72 per cent higher than it should be. (CFIB)
Municipal spending is unsustainable according 2013 Municipal Spending Watch released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Their position: sustainable municipal spending increases should be no more than inflation plus population growth. Their hopes: that voters would pay heed to their warning in the upcoming election and vote for fiscal responsibility. But, is anybody listening? You wouldn't know it by the media coverage.
This independent study ranks St. Albert as fifth worst in the municipal spending race amongst the 20 largest cities in Alberta. City councils spent 72 per cent more than justifiable between 2000 and 2011. In itself, this refutes administration and most of council contention that St. Albert is doing better than other municipalities. It clearly is not. The results should be no great surprise as St. Albert has the highest residential taxes among the mid-size cities based on the “same house” comparisons done by the City of Edmonton.
Only two of the cities in administration's comparisons do worse than St. Albert in this study: Strathcona County (includes Sherwood Park) and Leduc. But there is an ability to pay argument that I'm sure these municipalities would use to justify higher spending. They have more spending money because they get 50 per cent and 36 per cent of their tax take from business compared to St. Albert's 15 per cent. As businesses contribute more in tax dollars than they cost to service they leave municipalities with a net gain. The opposite applies to residential, which costs more than it contributes. This part of the equation considers what you can afford to spend. For example, if you earn $1 million a year you might buy a Rolls Royce; if you earn $50,000 a year, you buy a Firefly. St. Albert hasn't learned this lesson.
While I'm not supporting excess expenditures by these other municipalities which could make a more fiscally prudent choice to tax less, I do think St. Albert's lack of a business base means that its spending excesses are even worse than they appear in comparison to these other municipalities. And it is the residential taxpayer that bears this burden.
Voters have a choice in the upcoming elections: continue with profligate spending based on the “gold standard” or world class” as trumpeted by many or look for fiscal responsibility amongst candidates. My decision will be made based on the record of the incumbents and what other candidates are saying on this issue. I encourage all St. Albert voters to look at this issue and get out and vote.
City of Edmonton Residential Property Tax Survey
CFIB: Alberta Municipal Sending watch 2013
Lynda Flannery, St. Albert