Alberta Municipalities are calling upon the provincial government to expand the funding pot and change the formula for the Local Fiscal Framework (LGFF) when it's introduced in 2024.
Yesterday, a resolution sponsored by St. Albert and Airdrie was passed at the Alberta Municipalities (ABmunis) convention in Calgary.
Municipalities say both the initial funding pot of $340 million for jurisdictions outside of Edmonton and Calgary and the proposed formula to adjust the funding stream are both inadequate.
They believe it will further challenge municipalities to meet infrastructure needs.
That could result in higher municipal taxes, heavier debt loads, or projects simply not being completed.
Cochrane Mayor Jeff Genung, chair of the Mid-Sized Cities Mayors' Caucus (MCMC), says the 24 municipalities of the caucus had discussed the issue in advance of the convention and the resolution itself was sponsored by two of its members.
As it stands now, they believe LGFF would reduce the funding pot to mid-sized cities by 25 per cent. Genung says the proposed formula to adjust the funding stream will leave them with even less by providing them with 50 per cent of the increased revenue realized by the province, as opposed to a 1:1 ratio. For example, if the province had a 10 per cent increase in revenue, the proposed formula would see municipalities receive a five per cent increase.
"Not only would we receive less funding overall from the province, to utilize this formula that's being bantered around we get even less, so it's a double-hit, and communities like Cochrane will be severely impacted by this in a time when we have huge infrastructure needs, and we're not alone."
He says Cochranites are not immune to the financial pressures of the province's growth.
"The 1A project is a good example of a project that we had to take on that is a provincial jurisdiction. Yes, we used grants and other means to fund it, but we're trying to be innovative in those approaches, and there are only so many things you can do."
He points to the current outcry to complete the James Walker Trail, a project that is currently tied to revenue generated from the massive Southbow Landing development that is far from getting underway.
"We need the province to recognize that a community such as Cochrane, fastest growing in Alberta, 11th in Canada, has unique needs. If they want to see the economy of the province continue to recover, Cochrane is a vehicle that can help the province do that, and they need to help us with the funding."
He says the mid-sized cities have a collective population of one million people and will be exploring the development of an economic impact assessment to verify the economic value mid-sized municipalities provide the province.
He says they are not looking for a handout, but an equitable share.
"What we'd like to see is an ebb and flow with the economy of the province. We would see more money in boom times, which is now, they have a $13 billion surplus. When it goes the opposite, as we've seen a couple of years ago, we'd be willing to take less, so it's not just a handout."
He says as it stands now, mid-sized cities would prefer to stay with the current MSI formula over what's being proposed.
"It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than going to the formula being tossed about now where we see less and less, and it's not just about less, it's about being equitable."
Representing 24 municipalities and one million Albertans, MCMC will be exploring the development of an economic impact assessment to verify their economic value to the province.
Further, MCMC wants to explore a new long-term partnership with the province to enable job creation, economic progress, and the execution of social and environmental outcomes.
"We want to be collaborative with the province. We don't want to take an adversarial approach or one that is in opposition all the time. We want to be seen as a group of municipalities that want to work together with the province to come up with a funding strategy that is easy to understand, easy to enact, and that we work together for the prosperity of the province."
One possibility is the development of a mid-sized cities' charter with a similar aim as the ones created for Calgary and Edmonton.
The convention wraps up today.