The County of Grande Prairie, as well as the Municipal District of Greenview, are being asked to cut spending instead of discussing tax increases. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation called both communities out, Wednesday, saying they need to cut spending before resorting to drastic tax hikes.
The advocacy group says the County spends an average of 28 per cent more than municipalities of a similar size, and could save roughly $21 million a year if it spent closer to the provincial average. Alberta Director Franco Terrazzano says it, and the MD of Greenview should both adhere closer to the provincial average for their size instead of proposing drastic tax increases to account for potential changes to oil and gas assessments.
“Alberta’s big-spending municipalities need to tighten their belts before crying poor and threatening struggling families and businesses with tax hikes,” says Terrazzano. “Grande Prairie County and Greenview are both big-spending municipalities and could save a bunch of money by simply bringing their spending in line with their peers.”
In response, County Reeve Leanne Beaupre notes much of the County’s spending benefits more than just the County itself. She argues only how much money comes in and out is tracked, and not what it is used for.
“There are issues with [the CTF] not understanding what we spend our money on, like what our core services are and everything else. They’re not taking into account that we’re making investments into roads, highways, bridges. things that benefit more than just the County of Grande Prairie that are not our responsibility.”
The CTF says 2020 municipal spending report,the MD of Greenview spends just shy of $15,000 annually per person. It also reports that the municipal district’s labour costs went up by roughly 55 per cent between 2014 and 2018, while total compensation paid to Alberta workers declined by six per cent. The municipality is being asked to return labour costs to pre-downturn levels.
Terrazzano is also calling on local MLAs Todd Loewen, Travis Toews, and Martin Long to pressure County and MD councillors to cut spending.
MD of Greenview Reeve Dale Smith says the district’s budget is not exclusively used for its own means.
“[Reducing spending] is easy to say when you’re on the other side of the fence,” he says. “They probably don’t know but we give the towns of Valleyview and Fox Creek just about $3 million each every year for their growth and operations of their towns.”
“I don’t think they’re aware that we just acquired the Hamlet of Grande Cache— there was a lot of services that needed to be upgraded there,” he adds.
Beaupre says spending cuts won’t be a problem if the municipalities aren’t making any money, though it’s not as though taxpayer money is being spent willy-nilly.
“We actually have a budget and we look all of our capital projects on prioritized issues and we make those investments,” she says. “We also have to have a financial stabilization reserve in the event that there is a global downturn and we have to be able to operate otherwise all of the services will come to a complete, grinding halt.”
The County of Grande Prairie’s total operating budget in 2019 was just shy of $140 million.
MyGrandePrairieNow.com reached out to the office of Minister Toews, though he was unable to be reached for comment by the time of publication.