Nisku,AB— The Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) is disappointed. A number of grant programs experienced drastic cuts for the 2013-14 budget year, many of which disproportionately affect rural Albertans.
Several grant programs that are over-subscribed by Counties and Municipal Districts are going completely unfunded in the 2013-14 fiscal year. The Local Road Bridge Program, the Resource Road Program and the Community Airport Program have all been zero-funded, which will have a significant impact on rural transportation networks across the province.
Bob Barss, President of the AAMDC, commented “The taxpayers in rural Alberta will be the ones who will pay for this reduction of funding. Rural municipalities are responsible for the roads that keep our economy moving and the government's lack of support for this critical responsibility will have a huge impact on our members' budgets.” He continued by highlighting the importance of the Municipal Sustainability Initiative, “The AAMDC is pleased to see that MSI was maintained, unfortunately that is negated by the loss of these vital grant programs for rural Alberta.”
Bridges across rural Alberta are at the end of their lifespan and without funding the only choice for rural municipalities will be to close crossings. Rural municipalities do not have the funding available to repair and maintain the 8,500 bridges for which they currently have responsibility. The Alberta government estimates that the current local road bridge infrastructure requires an investment of $70 million per year for the next 10 years. The removal of the $26 million of Local Road Bridge Program funding will result in further growth in infrastructure deficits and will have detrimental impacts across rural road networks for years to come.
Industry in remote areas of Alberta often require roads to be newly built or upgraded to accommodate the volume of heavy traffic that was not previously there. For the past 10 years, the province has been assisting municipalities by providing funding through the Resource Road Program. Previously funded at $31 million, the program is now un-funded and rural municipalities are left with the bill for costs caused by industry.
The Community Airport Program funds improvements to the 72 paved community airports around the province that are the responsibility of the local municipal governments. These airports contribute to the local economy and assist with the spraying of crops for local farmers. While the funding of past years of the Community Airport Program may have been small, at $2 million, the removal of this funding will affect the sustainability of this airport network in the long-term.
As well, municipal water funding was decreased by 50 per cent in this budget. The Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Partnership (AMWWP), used to upgrade and build essential community infrastructure such as water treatment plants and waste water treatment plants. Water for Life funding, meant to build regional water distribution lines to places that need a secure supply of safe drinking water has also been reduced. While these programs are over-subscribed every year, Water for Life is reduced to under $75 million from $145 million and the AMWWP grant has decreased from $50 million to $25 million.
Since 1909, the AAMDC has helped Alberta’s rural municipalities achieve strong, effective local government. The association provides Advocacy and Aggregated Business Services for the province’s 69 counties and municipal districts. The AAMDC’s membership manages 72 per cent of all roads in the province. Learn more at www.aamdc.com.
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