Budget not fair, says PR mayor

Richard Froese
South Peace News

The Town of Peace River is upset about funding cuts for municipalities in the provincial budget announced Feb. 25.

Mayor Tom Tarpey says cuts in the Municipal Sustainability Initiative [MSI] program is not a good deal for municipalities.

“It isn’t fair, that is why,” Tarpey says.

MSI funding will be cut by 25 per cent over the next three years starting in 2022.

“Municipalities need MSI-type funding to maintain their infrastructure,” Tarpey says.

“Infrastructure is not just a quality of life issue, it is a public safety issue.”

He says the government needs to pay its fair share.

“What really rubs salt into this wound is that the province is exempt from paying property taxes on the buildings and lands in owns in the town, despite the fact that it relies on municipal services as much as, if not more, than the average ratepayer,” Tarpey says.

He says municipalities own or operate over 60 per cent of public infrastructure in Canada, yet they collect only 10 per cent of every tax dollar.

“This is because municipalities have really only one funding source, property taxes,” Tarpey says.

However, he is pleased that MSI funding is boosted in 2021 that was explained as he heard a briefing with Premier Jason Kenney and several ministers.

“What I took away from that briefing was that the premier is moving MSI funding forward this year to promote COVID-19 recovery but at the expense of MSI funding in future years,” Tarcey says.

The other big takeaway for the mayor came from Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver.

McIver said that the province is going to restrict flood compensation claims (and other like natural disasters) to once per residence or location address with a cap of $500,000.

Municipalities and private businesses won’t be restricted in the number of compensation claims, but will have to effectively pay a 10 per cent deductible. The province’s rationale is that disaster payouts for uninsurable events is becoming too expensive to cover alone.

So the tax burden falls on taxpayers, he says.

“The bottom line is that somebody has to pay for such things as maintaining water and sewer lines, safe and clean roads, recreational amenities,” Tarpey says.

“If the province doesn’t help out the average property owner will have to cover the shortfall.

“It is either that or let things deteriorate, and we can’t from a safety point of view.”

Tarpey says Peace River MLA Dan Williams heard the local concerns at the regular town council meeting on March 22.

Council is happy about one major benefit from the budget.

Moving up the re-decking project for the original highway bridge going through town is a definitive positive.

The $40-million project will cover the next two construction seasons that Tarpey says should provide jobs and economic stimulus for the Town of Peace River.

Share this post