Mayors of Alberta’s mid-sized cities are continuing to pressure the provincial government to back away from a decision to charge municipalities $15 for searching motor vehicle registrations.
After a two-day meeting in Grande Prairie last week, the mayors of 15 cities agreed to write a group letter to the provincial government in the hope that a unified message will carry enough weight to prompt a change.
“We’re under the understanding that they’re not going to but, if they don’t hear the feedback, then of course they’re not going to,” said St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse.
The provincial government’s spring budget included a new measure to charge municipalities $15 for each electronic motor vehicle registration search. The fees already existed for private registries, but municipalities were previously exempt. The fees will apply to municipalities when they perform searches related to photo radar and parking violations. Law enforcement agencies will remain exempt.
Backlash from municipalities prompted a delay until September but the government hasn’t committed to further change.
Crouse and his counterparts now want the province to increase the fines for violators to make up the cost.
“We’re just hoping that gets passed onto the speeder instead of the taxpayer,” Crouse said.
Joining him in signing the letter were the mayors of Grande Prairie, Leduc, Brooks, Spruce Grove, Camrose, Red Deer, Lacombe, Strathcona County, Wetaskiwin, Lloydminster, Cold Lake, Fort Saskatchewan, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.
St. Albert’s administration originally expected the fee to cost the city about $385,000 in 2011 but later estimated that the delay could cut the cost in half. Next year, the cost of registry searches is expected to increase to $510,000.
The fee was among a number of unforeseen expenses that prompted council to nudge this year’s tax increase up by nearly half a percentage point.
The city files 28,000 searches for vehicle information related to photo radar violations and about 1,100 searches for other violations.
St. Albert MLA Ken Allred said the decision to charge municipalities was necessary because of increasing costs and frequency of searches. The government has already deferred the start until September, he noted.
“They’ve compromised on it but I don’t think there’s any mood to revisit it totally. It’s a cost that’s been borne by the government for many years,” he said.
He’s not sure if the government is open to increasing fines as the mayors are now seeking.