City of Lacombe resilient in light of 2019 provincial budget restraints

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The City of Lacombe says it’s disappointed by significant reductions in the 2019 provincial budget, but is pledging to continue a “productive” working relationship wth the Government Alberta.

On Tuesday, the city issued a release on their reaction to the budget, acknowledging and giving its support to the province’s mandate to “create jobs, grow the economy, and protect critical services while balancing the budget by 2023.”

“Although we are clearly entering a period of fiscal belt-tightening, the City of Lacombe is resilient,” said Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey. “Our strength has always been in working together to succeed together. Given the province’s current financial realities, we anticipated a budget of restraint and prepared our 2020 budget according to account for the reduction in municipal funding.”

The biggest area impacting the city is a coming reduction in Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding. While the province says MSI will be maintained for 2019, funding will be reduced by $94 million in 2021, followed by a further decrease of $142 million in 2022.

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In the midst of budget deliberations themselves, the city has already factored in a 25 per cent decrease in MSI, meaning council will be able to continue to align tax rates to the Consumer Price Index, otherwise known as inflation. Rates are expected to go up 1.4 per cent for 2020, which is approximately an additional $42.07 for the average house in Lacombe valued at $380,000.

Further, the budget brings in Bill 20, the Fiscal Measures and Taxation Act, which will see the city charters with Edmonton and Calgary replaced with the Local Government Fiscal Framework Act. The act will change how municipal construction projects are funded throughout the province beginning in 2022-23. Lacombe will have to vie for part of $405 million for all municipalities, aside from Edmonton and Calgary, for construction project funding

While the city has prepared for budget restraints and believes Lacombe is in a healthy position to deal with it, other groups in the community will be affected.

Chief among those groups is the Lacombe & District Historical Society, who estimate they could lose a combined $40,000 up to $70,000 annually, including $5,000-8,000 received through the Summer Temporary Employment Program, which is being removed.

Other local non-profits may also be affected as the Alberta Lottery  Fund, which provides government funding support to non-profits and other volunteer organizations, is transferred into general revenue.

Burman University, however, is amongst five schools in the province that will escape a combined $117.6 million of cuts across 26 institutions. Nearby, Red Deer College will see a $1,207,759 cut.

“Council, together with city staff, are working diligently to maintain and deliver essential services that protect and enhance the quality of life for residents at a reasonable cost,” said CAO Matthew Goudy. “The city will continue to look for efficiencies in the way we deliver programs and services to citizens as we work with the province to learn more about how this budget will impact Lacombe.”