Cities around the world are confronted with the task of providing civic services in an environment of limited financial means. St. Albert is not alone in facing this challenge.Wes Brodhead
Cities around the world are confronted with the task of providing civic services in an environment of limited financial means. St. Albert is not alone in facing this challenge. Traditionally, cities had two primary mechanisms to address funding challenges, namely reduce spending, or increase user fees or taxes. St. Albert has made use of both fiscal strategies.
During elections, it is common to hear that all financial ills can be resolved by reductions in spending. Cliché statements like “the city doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem,” implying a pain-free solution exists, does not fully address the complexities of fiscal planning. An expenditure side solution is neither simple nor pain free. St. Albert has done the hard work of completing a close examination of civic service provision to ensure those provisions are delivered with utmost efficiency. Smart and innovative city financing is a core value of Council. I encourage residents to visit the City of St. Albert website and search “Operational and Fiscal Review Now Complete” to become informed on St. Albert’s fiscal strategies.
Nevertheless, the traditional option of increasing residential and commercial property taxes is also extremely limited. The on-going COVID-19 pandemic has economically devastated many business and residential rate payers. Their capacity to shoulder more tax burden is negligible.
So, what can we do?
One of the options available to cities is to pursue non-traditional sources of revenue. This includes learning from what other cities have done to cultivate new sources of income. This includes introducing new technologies in solid waste management, utility service provision to outside agencies, leasing city owned lands and facilities and engaging in producing saleable products from civic resources.
All such ventures need to be fully vetted to measure the return on investment versus the inherent risk of participation. While cities need to be conservative in their project evaluation, successful sources of income should not be ignored.