Alberta municipalities need an extra $1 billion a year for the next three years to fund infrastructure projects, says St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron, president of Alberta Municipalities.
Heron, along with Alberta Muncipalities board members Legal Mayor Trina Jones and Wetaskiwin Mayor Tyler Gandam met with media ahead of the upcoming Alberta Municipalities Convention and Trade Show to share the top priorities of cities and towns across the province.
One of the most pressing concerns is that the Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF), set to provide municipalities with $722 million in capital funding per year for the next three years, is a billion dollars per year short, Heron said.
Delegates will vote on a new resolution to ask the province to increase LGFF capital funding to $1.75 billion annually.
“It sounds like a huge number, but we can absolutely stand behind that number,” Heron said.
Part of the justification for that figure is inflation: Alberta Municipalities claims if 2011 levels of funding had kept pace with inflation, municipalities would have received $2.1 billion this year instead of $712 million.
“It’s also important to note that municipalities in Alberta are responsible for approximately 60 per cent of public infrastructure in Alberta, yet we only receive about eight to 10 cents of tax dollars collected.”
Trina Jones said cuts to infrastructure funding have delayed important projects in Legal.
“Small communities especially are seeing critical infrastructure like sewers and water lines … put off because they simply can’t afford them,” Jones said. “Instead of dumping that load on to taxpayers, we’re asking the provincial government to help us out a little bit and bring the LGFF back to historical levels.”
Municipalities will also address social issues like homelessness, poverty and crime at the upcoming convention, where they will vote on 26 resolutions.
Jones said lack of funding for social services means she is often “downloading” Legal residents with issues such as drug addiction onto larger centres like St. Albert and Edmonton, where there is more access to treatment.
Heron said it’s an issue that only larger cities get provincial funding for homelessness.
“Putting all the social issues into bigger cities is creating spiral effects of crime downtown,” she said.
“St. Albert wants to care for their own.”
The Alberta Municipalities Convention and Trade Show starts Wednesday, Sept. 27 and runs to Sept. 29.