City thinks its taxpayers have bottomless pockets!

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The entire issue of offsite levies, and the proposal from city administration to let developers in the annexed areas saddle existing taxpayers with the cost of development, is just not in the interest of the taxpayer.

This proposal, which along with taxpayers paying a portion of the infrastructure costs, also includes $60 million for a new reservoir that will be added to our utility bills, is outrageous. Not only have our utility bills increased 67 per cent between 2002 and 2008 (11 per cent per year and 10-plus per cent in 2009), the proposed 2010-12 utility capital plan will see an additional boost in our bills by 28 per cent by the end of 2012. By 2012 the average utility bill will exceed $1,400 per year, not including this proposed new burden for taxpayers.

To remind council and administration: your commitment to taxpayers at the time of annexation was that the development of annexed lands would not cost the current taxpayers of the city anything. They knew what the development would require then, and precious little has changed. Now to suggest making an about-face on that commitment smacks of the same cavalier attitude that turned Servus Place from the promised enterprise model to just another drain on the taxpayers’ pocket.

It’s interesting that other municipalities, like Okotoks, require developers to submit ASP applications with financial statements that demonstrate the development will not be a burden on the existing taxpayers. They’ve found that, although developers make big noises about how onerous and costly this, they do manage to continue to develop land and make a profit. This is exactly opposite to the approach administration is encouraging our council to take.

The whole issue of ‘we need to do this to remain competitive within other municipalities with the region’ is just a smokescreen. Competitive for whom? With the galloping utility and tax rate increases (residential property taxes went up 12.76 per cent per year between 2002 to 2008 for a total of 77 per cent, and five per cent last year), we’ll really be non-competitive because we won’t be able to continue living in St. Albert, let alone attract new folks.

Adding insult to injury is the move by administration to let developers off the hook for 25 per cent of the city’s portion of the costs for Ray Gibbon Drive. The mayor expressed surprise at this proposal during the recent council meeting. He was reminded that at an in camera meeting council had agreed to this proposal by administration early in 2009. Yet Mr. Mayor and council had been telling the taxpayer all along that developers would pay the 25 per cent for all phases of Ray Gibbon Drive seemingly without being reminded by administration that this was not likely to be the case.

In summary, these proposals should be stopped dead by council. And, administration should be held accountable for not keeping them adequately informed. If the developers do not like this, I’m sure current taxpayers will have little sympathy for them.

Lynda Flannery, St. Albert Taxpayers Association

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