As the province continues to deal with the fiscal impacts of COVID-19 and volatile energy prices, Alberta’s rural municipalities recognize the need for the Government of Alberta to spend responsibly to maintain the province’s path to balance. However, RMA is concerned with several decisions in the budget related to municipal funding. Most significant is the decision to reduce Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding by 25% over the next three years. Changing dramatically each year over three years and not meeting the principle of being stable and predictable for the purposes of budgeting is a challenge. Rural municipalities rely on MSI funding to build and maintain core infrastructure relied on by industry, such as roads and bridges. This reduction, combined with the $245 million unpaid oil and gas property tax burden that rural municipalities are currently facing, has left RMA concerned that some municipalities will not be able to maintain infrastructure and provide services at the level required by industry and rural residents. A solution to the unpaid tax issue would significantly soften the blow of reduced MSI funding.
In addition to MSI, rural municipalities rely on the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program (STIP) to support their road and bridge networks. The budget maintains STIP funding at existing levels for 2021 - 2022, but forecasts a reduction in future years, which could have additional impacts on rural municipal transportation networks.
On a positive note, RMA is pleased by the decision to maintain funding levels for libraries and Family and Community Support Services. Dedicated funding to offset municipal administrative costs related to the upcoming referendum and senate election process is also appreciated. Maintaining funding levels for Alberta’s agricultural service boards is also crucial to supporting a strong agriculture industry across the province. Finally, RMA is pleased by the continued funding of the Alberta Municipal Water Wastewater Program (AMWWP) and encourages the Government of Alberta to work with municipalities to ensure AMWWP funding is allocated to support municipal water and wastewater projects.