The Government of Alberta’s recently released budget and fiscal plan for the 2017/2018 fiscal year is being marketed with a focus on three strategic priorities and the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) has released a rural perspective on how the provincial budget will affect rural municipalities.
Wetaskiwin county councillors were given an overview of highlights from the AAMDC Special Edition Provincial Budget 2017-18 Rural Perspective during their April 4 regular council meeting.
“What we wanted to do is provide what are the impacts to us,” said CAO Frank Coutney.
The three strategic priorities of the budget are: making life more affordable, creating more jobs along with a diversified economy, and protecting and improving services.
The AAMDC’s rural perspective on how the province’s budget will effect municipalities states:
The budget is expected to see a $10.3 billion deficit in the 2017/2018 fiscal year.
The provincial debt is expected to reach $45 billion and is estimated to hit $71.1 billion by 2019/2020.
The Education Property Tax Requisition is forecast at $2.4 billion, a $32 million (1.3 per cent) increase from last year. The Government of Alberta has frozen the education system operating expenses, the de facto practice for the past several budgets.
Rural economic development funding has been increased by 28 per cent to $53.2 million.
Family and Community Support Services remains stable at $101 million.
Provincial Library Network funds are being maintained at $36 million, with an additional allocation of $12 million to the Regional Library Systems Headquarters.
Funding for the Community Facility Enhancement Program, Summer Temporary Employment Program and the Orphan Well Abandonment Program remain stable at $38 million, $10 million, and $30.5 million, respectively.
The Alberta Seniors Benefit, which provides supports for low-income seniors, has been budgeted $365 million.
The Seniors Property Tax Deferral Program increased to $7.3 million from $5.8 million.
Alberta Community Partnership funding was reduced to $18.5 million from $20 million last fiscal year.
Grants in Place of Taxes rose $3 million to $59 million.
Federal Gas Tax funding is level at $222 million.
Municipal Water-Wastewater programs (AMWWP) remain steady. AMWWP received $55 million and Water For Life received $55 million.
Highway maintenance operations were cut $13 million, leaving $254 million in funding.
In total, $235 million was set aside for disaster and emergency assistance, of which $200 million is unallocated.
“As you know, we have a disaster funding application in,” said Coutney.