Submitted by Bow Island mayor Gordon Reynolds
For the Corporation of the Town of Bow Island, the Provincial budget, tabled last week, does not contain as much short term “pain” as I expected. The Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) program was to be increased substantially but has in fact been reduced overall. Locally however the numbers are quite similar to last year. Some other programs have been increased overall but we don’t know yet how those will directly impact Bow Island, other than the reinstatement of S.T.E.P.
Last year we were hit with the loss of the Grants in Lieu of Taxes for the government rental houses and there was an indication this would also be reinstated but it was not. One bit of help on that front is word that these properties will not be figured into the equalized assessment for the purpose of calculating what the Town must collect for Education Property Tax.
The Education Property Tax across the province will be up again but we do not know yet how much of a change we will see locally. The municipalities are forced to collect this tax on behalf of the Province and it represents 32% of the Education budget.
In recent years the Town has partnered with our neighbours (or supported their applications) for grants under the Alberta Community Partnership program. This program has been cut in half and only about 1/4 of that will be available to communities like ours.
The carbon tax will undoubtedly have an effect on the Town’s bottom line after increasing utilities and other operating costs. One of my biggest concerns with this tax is that rural Albertans will pay a disproportionate share of this tax as we do not have the same transportation alternatives that many urban areas do. I can see a tremendous impact on agriculture by this tax as energy is a big component of production costs on every farm and I have seen nothing about exemptions or rebates for agriculture.
Besides being concerned about how my children will cope with paying back the mind-boggling debt the government is going to incur I am very concerned about how our municipalities will fare when debt reduction measures are eventually put in place. The drastic funding cuts we were hit with in the early nineties resulted in delays in replacing infrastructure in all of our cities, towns, villages and counties. There has been a slow but steady recovery but we are far from finished (25+ years later), so another disruption in funding will really bog that process down.