Long-term debt down $3.9 million in 2016

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St. Albert continues to pay off its debt at a steady pace, dropping from $45.5 million to $41.6 million in 2016.

Debt levels for each Alberta municipality are reported annually by the provincial government. Figures released Dec. 15 by Alberta Municipal Affairs show St. Albert’s total debt is the lowest among Alberta’s mid-sized cities.

Brenda Barclay, acting director of financial services for the city, said the debt decrease for 2016 is a normal occurrence because it relates to the city’s current debenture repayment schedules.

St. Albert’s long-term debt only includes Ray Gibbon Drive and Servus Place, she added. And although numbers for 2017 may not be out until December 2018, the level of debt should continue to decrease.

“St. Albert has not taken on any new debt in 2017,” Barclay said.

Despite that, there is still potential for increases depending on council-approved borrowing bylaws. In 2016, city council approved a $30-million borrowing bylaw for the Phase 3 North Interceptor, although the city has yet to incur debt on that project.

Also in 2017, councillors approved a $21.9-million borrowing bylaw for a branch library. That project is on hold and has not moved forward.

St. Albert’s debt level has been steadily decreasing for several years. In 2012, Alberta Municipal Affairs recorded the city’s total debt at $56.8 million. In 2013, that dropped to $52.8 million.

2014’s numbers put St. Albert’s debt at $49.3 million, which dropped again in 2015 to $45.5 million.

With a population of 64,645 in 2016, St. Albert’s debt per capita for that year is $643.30 per person.

By comparison, Airdrie’s total debt is $59.3 million for a per-capita cost of $958.42, while Grande Prairie’s total debt is $138.4 million or $2,019 per capita. Medicine Hat’s $304-million debt load equates to $4,824 per capita.

Closer to home, St. Albert’s debt is dwarfed by that of Edmonton, which is $3.34 billion for a per-capita cost of $3,712.

Sturgeon County’s total debt of $30.4 million equates to $1,552 for each of its 19,578 residents.

Morinville’s $3.1-million debt load equates to $310.34 per capita.

St. Albert has slightly higher per-capita debt compared to its southern neighbour, Spruce Grove, which sits at $557.93 per capita.

Numbers discrepancy

The figures released by Alberta Municipal Affairs for 2015 put St. Albert’s debt level at $46.7 million, which would have meant St. Albert paid down its debt by $5.1 million in 2016.

But Barclay says the number reported by Albert Municipal Affairs is incorrect. The true figure is $45.5 million for 2015, which means St. Albert’s debt dropped $3.9 million.

Barclay said Alberta Municipal Affairs keyed in the wrong line of the city’s 2015 financial information return.

“We checked and we have the correct information in our year-end statement and return,” she said.

“We are following up with Municipal Affairs on this discrepancy.”

St. Albert’s debt level is currently 15 per cent of its limit, which is $267.2 million.

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April Hudson