A recurring comment that Mayor Peter Brown and a few other incumbent council candidates have made throughout the municipal election campaign this fall is how difficult the City of Airdrie’s next budget cycle is going to be.
They’re not wrong; thanks to the loss of Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding to the tune of $14 million and increased RCMP-related costs due to a recently approved collective agreement that will cost the City approximately $4 million, the City of Airdrie’s next budget will certainly face challenges.
This week, we learned one of Airdrie’s marquee capital projects – a new library – is also facing a steep hike in cost. According to an update presented at the City council meeting on Oct. 4, the project’s budget has risen from approximately $50.6 million to $62.7 million – an increase of about 24 per cent.
Other big-cost initiatives coming down the pipe include the construction of a recreation centre on the west side of the city, an underpass under the CP rail line at Yankee Valley Boulevard (hopefully) and the revitalization of Airdrie’s downtown.
Unlike provincial and federal governments, municipalities are not allowed to run deficit budgets, which means City staff and the next council will be responsible for deciding how to balance the numbers. Will they raise taxes? Add a business tax? Cut certain services? It’s hard to say at this point, but the money will have to come from somewhere.
Election campaigns always result in the promotion of grandiose ideas. While it’s great to see candidates dream big, some of those big-ticket ideas will not be feasible this term, if the City’s economics are facing the challenges the mayor and some of the incumbent candidates are warning they will.
As you listen to candidates promote their platforms in the lead-up to voting day, we encourage you to keep in mind how they intend to pay for these projects, if elected. Consider the feasibility of their promises and objectives when deciding who to cast your ballot for on Oct. 18.