With a ‘tough’ budget slated to come down later this month, the province recently announced $400 million in Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding to help municipalities to meet infrastructure requirements.
It is allocated based on a municipality’s population, education property tax requisitions and kilometres of local roads. MSI funding is allocated annually and paid to municipalities following legislative approval of the budget.
Diana McQueen, minister of municipal affairs, said the funding should help partners meet their capital infrastructure commitments and position them well for the tough budget cycles ahead.
“We are pleased with the Province’s continued commitment to MSI funding,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “Municipalities are responsible for over 60 per cent of the infrastructure in the country. Cities and communities need the funding from MSI to continue growing our economy and serving our citizens.”
In 2014, the City of Red Deer received $24,100,000 through MSI funding.
Since the program was first introduced, the City has used the funding to move forward with a number of projects that contribute to the enhancement of quality of life for residents.
Examples of projects include the River Bend Water Intake System, pavement rehabilitation and roadway construction projects, such as the Taylor Drive Improvements Project and the 67 Street and 30 Avenue Expansion Project.
“Without MSI funding these projects could not have happened without looking to our local tax base for support,” said Veer. “MSI funding has been a long term, predictable source of funding that has helped us manage the challenges associated with building a vibrant and safe community, all while responding to unique and complex growth and infrastructure needs.
“It enables us to look beyond today at the ever-changing needs of our community.”
McQueen said that the ongoing slump in oil prices and the upcoming budget, due March 26th, have been topics of much discussion over the past months. She said she’s been traveling across the province to talk with municipal leaders.
“We have been listening to what our stakeholders and partners have been telling us. In my own discussions, what I’ve heard has been pretty consistent – municipalities have a number of key infrastructure commitments that require provincial investment through municipal sustainability initiatives.”
Not moving ahead with them now could mean higher costs down the road, she said. “Cancelling planned upcoming projects could cause significant employment concerns during this upcoming employment season and beyond.”
MSI funding has supported more than 4,800 infrastructure projects to date, including over $20.8 million in road construction and rehabilitation projects in the City in 2014.
These include $6 million for paving and widening several roads in Red Deer County in 2014 and more than $6.4 million for upgrades and rehabilitation of roads in Lacombe County in 2014.
The increase will fund projects approved as part of the City of Red Deer’s 2014/15 Capital Budget. However, the future of MSI funding is still unknown until this year’s provincial budget is announced.