Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett (third from right) spoke to the media in late-2018 about the Town’s decision to not sign off on the school tax requisition unless the province comes to the table with some grant options. Town of Stettler Mayor Sean Nolls (far right) was also in attendance to show his support. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Ponoka Mayor presents to Lacombe Council reasons behind withholding school tax

Mayor Rick Bonnett requests a letter of support from the City of Lacombe

“It is unorthodox but at the same time — we are getting their attention.”

These were the words of Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett after he spoke to Lacombe City Council regarding the Town of Ponoka’s choice to withhold school taxes from the Province of Alberta.

The choice came after the Town and the Province failed to come to an agreement on a infrastructure funding model for a new fieldhouse. The Province estimated contribution to the project is slated at roughly $4.5 million.

The Ponoka Mayor was in Lacombe looking for a letter of support regarding the project.

“We have been down the road multiple times with the provincial government and the federal government. This is something where our frustration has been growing for 14 to 15 years now,” Bonnett said.

“We are now to the point where we want to move forward or else we will have to tell our citizens that it is off the books. We don’t want to do that — we want to continue to push.”

While rare, Bonnett said the idea is not unprecedented — with the Province earlier in 2018 saying they would cover education taxes associated with new developments (potentially a new Calgary arena) in Calgary’s Victoria Park area.

“They have done it in Calgary. They gave them 20 years, so they set the precedent,” Bonnett said. “We are just trying to give some solutions and other ideas.

While unique, Bonnett said the idea behind the plan was actually to allow the Province more time to cover their portion of the project.

“Instead of them giving us the full $4.5 million — they can give us $1.5 million(rough estimate of school tax) per year for four years,” he said. “It is a better way to fund it and all we are doing is cutting off the education portion for four years.”

The reason that the Town of Ponoka ultimately came to this decision, according to Bonnett, is that rural communities are being “neglected” by the Province. This is why Bonnett feels its important to gain support from other communities like Lacombe.

“We feel this is not just a stand for Ponoka — we feel this is a stand for moving forward to get a lot of government grants for all municipalities throughout Alberta,” he said.

Bonnett stressed that the Town of Ponoka did not come to this choice lightly.

“We are talking about the education of our children,” he said. “This is not college education — this is our young minds who will be our future leaders.

“That is why it was really hard, but at the same time they pushed this down to municipalities when it should have been taken care of by this province all along.”

The it he is referring to is the current system where Albertan municipalities collect the school tax on behalf of the Province.

“It is one thing to use the formula to figure out how much they should pay for each school board but to actually make us collect it, send it in and then tell us we are going to give you some of the money you collected — it sits really bad with municipalities and has been talked about for years,” he said.

“MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) is great but it is only a portion of what we collect in taxes as a municipality.”

Ultimately, Bonnett said he wants to see a wholesale different infrastructure funding model for municipalities

“We are looking for change of how the model is set up.,” he said. “Once we get the change on that side, we will see where it goes. The only way you make change is to actually step on some toes.

“We are going to be the mavericks who will take that shot.”

Bonnett thanked the City of Lacombe for inviting him to speak. Lacombe Council tabled discussion on the issue until a further date but many Counsellors did show tepid support.



todd.vaughan@lacombeexpress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Five suspects arrested by Leduc RCMP with help of Wetaskiwin and Maskwacis

Leduc RCMP work with Maskwacis and Wetaskiwin RCMP to make arrests

UPDATE Wetaskiwin RCMP arrest two in Camrose after report of suspicious persons

UPDATE Fugitives try to flee on ATVS, one allegedly steals police car

Wetaskiwin RCMP Investigate Aggravated Assault

Natasha Bull, 33, has been arrested

County of Wetaskiwin approves small land purchase

Total of $350 worth of land for road upgrade project

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

Panel to review impacts of safe injection sites in Alberta

It will look at crime rates, social order and property values, and not harm reduction or housing

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

PHOTOS: 5th Annual Alix rodeo bucks the competition

Cowboys and cowgirls risked it all at the Alix Rodeo

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

‘It’s just the freedom:’ Paralyzed Broncos player pursuing life on the water

The former Humboldt Broncos goaltender, who started in the net when he was nine, was paralyzed last year

Central Alberta Buccaneers punch ticket to AFL Final

28-20 win over Fort Mac sets up likely date against Calgary Wolf Pack

Most Read