Northern Sunrise: How will we sustain cuts?

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Northern Sunrise County is concerned that the municipality faces tough decisions after funding cuts in the provincial budget announced Feb. 25.

Reeve Carolyn Kolebaba says the biggest issue is a 25 per cent reduction in funding from the Municipal Sustainability Initiative [MSI] program starting in 2022.

“Overall, council recognizes the position of the government and while we know that there has to be concessions made, we worry about the future for small and rural municipalities with the decreased grant funding and the increased costs being offloaded to us,” says Kolebaba.

“As other municipalities have stated, we are concerned about the loss of MSI funding over the next three years and how that may affect our capital projects in the long term.

“In addition to lost grant funding, municipalities are also expected to pay more for policing costs as well as now having to pay a portion of disaster recovery, all without raising taxes as has been suggested by the provincial government.”

Municipalities are now required to pay 10 per cent of the costs to recover after natural disasters such as wildfires and flooding in their boundaries.

“There is always a concern of what will be pushed down to municipalities next and how will we sustain the cuts,” Kolebaba says.

“Eventually this downloading of costs to municipalities and the lack of MSI funding, and possibly other grants along the way, will most likely mean a reduction in services to the ratepayers of the county and/or an increase in municipal taxes to pay for the services and required infrastructure.

“There is only one taxpayer and having to ask them to pay more is tough.”

On the positive side, the reeve says the budget has some good news for the local community.

“We are happy to see that funding has remained in place for Agricultural Service Boards, an important part of rural municipalities.”

She also welcomes funding levels that will be maintained for Family and Community Support Services.

“FCSS supplies preventative programming to our residents and being a small rural community, these programs are often the only ones that they are able to access, so we are pleased to see that this funding is continuing,” Kolebaba says.

As well, maintaining funding for libraries is key, she notes.

“In small rural or urban areas, the libraries become a place of community – not only a place where we can take out a library book,” Kolebaba says.

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