WHEREAS the Municipal Sustainability Initiative has allowed municipalities to undertake projects of benefit to all Albertans;
WHEREAS this program plays a major role in infrastructure renewal generating numerous jobs throughout Alberta;
WHEREAS the application, approval and reporting aspects of this program generate substantial administrative costs both for the province, Municipal Affairs and municipalities;
WHEREAS the approval process results in delaying projects and in some cases increasing costs;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties work with Municipal Affairs to implement changes to the MSI Program in order to reduce administrative costs and allow projects to proceed in a more timely fashion.
Both the Province of Alberta and municipalities are committing substantial resources to the administration of this program. A results-based program where the province sets clear goals and guidelines and municipalities report on how the projects chosen have achieved those goals and meet the guidelines should reduce administrative costs. With the elimination of the application and approval portion of the process and with a clear set of rules, projects could proceed without delays and the uncertainty of whether they qualify for funding or not.
1-09F: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC urge the Provincial Government to recognize the high priority on addressing municipal infrastructure needs for safety and economy for transportation of people and commodities by maintaining MSI funding levels set in its 10 year formula.
Since 2007, the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) has provided $3.1 billion of long-term funding to enhance municipal sustainability and to enable municipalities to meet the demands of growth. This includes $886 million in funding for 2011/12.
Changes were made to the MSI in 2009 to ensure the program remains accountable to Albertans and meets its objectives, particularly given the significant shift in the economic climate.
The province sets the general criteria by which projects and activities qualify for funding under the program, and the municipality sets the individual priorities for those projects. All projects that use MSI funding are reviewed to ensure they meet the requirements set out in the program guidelines and must be approved by the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Although the funding provided through the MSI is substantial, the province remains committed to ensuring that the application requirements are manageable and that the process is efficient. In addition, the program provides municipalities with the flexibility to obtain approval for infrastructure projects one or more years in advance of their scheduled commencement, adding certainty to the planning and budgeting process.
With input from municipalities, one important change has been made for the 2011 MSI program. As of January 1, 2011, the minimum capital project threshold was lowered from 10 to 5 per cent of annual funding. This adjustment will ensure the MSI will continue to be used for substantial infrastructure needs, yet remain flexible enough to address important local priorities. The minimum threshold for operating projects will remain at 10 per cent of annual operating funding.
The government is committed to providing the full $11.3 billion MSI investment to municipalities, and continues to recognize the importance of predictable, sustainable funding for municipal infrastructure.
This resolution was originally considered unsatisfactory; however, in March 2012, Municipal Affairs announced new changes to the 2012 MSI program. With the program changes, the AAMDC considers the status of this resolution to be accepted. Recognizing that any grant program will always involve some level of administrative costs, the new program changes will help to reduce the administrative burden left on municipalities. Notable changes to the 2012 MSI program include: the application deadline being eliminated; minimum project thresholds being eliminated; the list of eligible expenses being expanded; and each operating project application form being replaced by one form that summarizes spending estimates based on functional category.