By Samantha Johnson
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Minister of Municipal Affairs Rebecca Schulz says she is proud of the Municipal Affairs Budget 2023, which has increased $45.2 million this year.
Capital support through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative has remained constant for a decade and has increased to $485 million this year.
“As you may remember, the three-year amounts for MSI were front-loaded at the beginning, so this works out to be an average of $722 million over the course of the three-year project plan,” Schulz said during a roundtable discussion with media earlier this month. The MSI operating funding has doubled from $30 to $60 million this year.
“I thought that was the best place to add some additional dollars because it allows flexibility for municipalities to use those to address their operating costs in whatever way that looks like for each individual municipality.”
Public library grants will also be increased by $3 million. When Schulz first became Minister of Municipal Affairs she received lots of correspondence from people in the public library system.
“I am an avid user. I grew up in a rural community and I know libraries are a community hub and are not just about books.”
As libraries support everybody in the community, particularly those that are rural and remote, the ministry wanted to increase the funding. Additionally, Schulz felt it was important to use a formula that would provide a five per cent increase for all library boards across the province.
The ministry has received multiple inquiries regarding the carbon tax.
“We took the federal government to court over the carbon tax. We can’t make that decision alone, but we will continue to call on the federal government to cancel their planned increases to the carbon tax.”
Schulz says tripling the carbon tax by 2030 will add fuel to the current inflation crisis.
Schulz is also committed to working with the Alberta Energy Regulator and energy companies to address issues and promised more details on this topic are coming within the next week. In regard to unpaid taxes, Schulz said there were some that aren’t recoverable, but there are payment plans in place for about $48 million and an additional $28 million that can still be recouped from companies still in operations.
There still isn’t a date for when the formula for the Local Government Fiscal Framework will be ready. Schulz said she will likely hold another townhall and they’d hoped to have the formula done by now. One of the delays is the ministry wanted to include municipalities in the process and are now working on reaching a consensus for the LGFF formula.
The revenue index factor will be 100 per cent under LGFF at the request of municipalities. With Alberta’s economy currently doing well, this will mean an increase of about 12 per cent in the second year of LGFF.
“A new funding formula is something municipalities asked for. They wanted stable, predictable funding and a formula that was transparent. That’s what we have committed to deliver on. It is the right thing to do. As is always the case, when you have a new formula and you input all the different levers and numbers, there will be some municipalities who see an increase and others will likely see a decrease.”
A transition fund has been created so municipalities which might see a decease in funding with the switch to LGFF will receive transition funding in the first year.