“We are hoping for funding to assist us in the servicing of Lakeview Business District. Another wish is to see funding for affordable housing and our 22 St. Thomas project,” St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron said.
Local leaders are hoping to see an increase in funding for education and municipalities tomorrow when the UCP releases the provincial budget.
Finance Minister Travis Toews has said the upcoming fiscal plan will focus on health care and education. The 2023 budget will be announced just 90 days before the provincial election, scheduled for May 29.
Joe Becigneul, chair of Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools, said the local school district is anticipating that funding will remain stable, as it has for the last few years.
“The word we've been given was that there will be no funding cuts … We're really hoping that that's the way it'll appear.”
In the 2022 budget, the province increased operating expenses for kindergarten to Grade 12 students by just 1.7 per cent, for a total of $7.8 billion.
“It's been relatively consistent over the last couple of years. Of course, it's never enough, but knowing that it's consistent, and we can get a better handle on what we anticipated makes a big difference for us,” he said.
The St. Albert Public Schools superintendent explained that the previous 1.7 per cent increase did not account for inflation for the growing school division.
“Unfortunately, last year was not a status quo budget for our growing division. However, our staff continued to provide excellent education and support services to our students, but some of the enhancements we had envisioned for this school year did not materialize due to rising costs,” said Krimsen Sumners, superintendent of St. Albert Public Schools.
“We are hopeful the province will provide an increase in funding for all publicly funded school divisions. Given the provincial surplus, it would be wonderful and hugely beneficial to see our government reinvested in the education of our children,” Sumners said.
Sumners also noted the need for funding that supports a growing division. She wants to see the formula used to calculate students and funding associated with them adjusted.
“We are seeking equity in funding for all students accessing public education in Alberta. We would like to see the current cap of 3 per cent on jurisdiction reserves lifted,” Sumners said.
The City of St. Albert faced some larger cuts as compared to the local school boards last year. Budget 2022 saw a decrease in municipal spending by the province from the $1.7 billion set aside in Budget 2021 to a $980 million in Budget 2022.
St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron said the cuts last year have forced municipalities to deal with high tax adjustments.
“In previous years we have managed to keep these adjustments below inflation, but this year across the province we have seen much higher increases,” she said.
The decrease in funding was due to the anticipated cut to the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI), which covers repairs for basic infrastructure, from the $1.2 billion forecasted for the fiscal year ending in March of 2022, to the $485 million set aside for 2022-23.
As for Budget 2023, Heron is hoping to see an increase in the Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF) grant, set to replace MSI, as well as more funding for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board.
“We are hoping for funding to assist us in the servicing of Lakeview Business District. Another wish is to see funding for affordable housing and our 22 St. Thomas project,” she added.
The provincial budget will be released on Tuesday Feb. 28.