Cochrane hopes to benefit from a new $60 million fund created by Alberta Municipal Affairs for fast growing communities.

Mayor Jeff Genung says he received notice of the new three-year funding program in a letter from Alberta Municipal Affairs minister Ric McIver on Feb. 29. 

Genung says they haven't seen the details but strongly believes Cochrane, as Alberta's fastest growing town, will be able to access to assist in funding vital infrastructure projects.

It's something Mayor Genung and the Alberta Mid-sized Cities Mayor Caucus (MCMC) have been seeking in their lobbying efforts.

"To me, this speaks to the work that we've done and I'm just so thankful the province is recognizing the growth that our communities are experiencing and putting their money there," says Genung. "I'm ecstatic."

In his State of Cochrane address on Feb. 29, Mayor Genung spoke on the good, bad and ugly of growth.

"I think you could talk to any single person that lives here, whether they've moved here two weeks ago or lived here 35 years, we need more schools, we need more rec centres, we need more play fields, we need more roads and bridges, and these things are not cheap."

"Our 10-year capital plan has a number getting close to a billion dollars," says Genung. "I mean, we don't have to the capacity to be able to address all of those needs, so I'm just so pleased that the province is recognizing that."

The 2024-25 budget year also sees the launch of a new funding model for municipal governments called the Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF).

Local governments will receive $724.2 million, including a one-time $2.2 million funding top-up to ensure no local government experiences a year-over-year decrease from capital funding allocated under the previous Municipal Sustainability Initiative in 2023. It's expected to increase 13 per cent to $820 million in 2025-26.

The Alberta Municipalities association (ABmunis) says that's not enough.

"The $722 million in LGFF baseline funding does not begin to address Alberta’s $30 billion (and growing) infrastructure deficit," it stated in December. "For the past nine months, ABmunis has been calling on the provincial government to increase this amount by $1 billion to $1.75 billion."

On the positive side of the ledger, Mayor Genung says the new funding formula is predictable, something municipalities have been seeking.

"We know that it's going up already next year based on the books from previous provincial budgets, so we have some predictability, and we can budget accordingly. Again, it's the province listening to the needs of municipalities. Did we get everything we wanted? No, but it's a step in the right direction."

It's too early to determine the full impact of the budget on Cochrane, and there may be other goodies in it, like funding for a new Big Hill Lodge, that aren't entirely flushed out.