Special Areas Advisory Council Meets Ahead of Busy 2021 Field Season

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Special Areas Advisory Council held their spring council meeting March 24 and 31, meeting virtually in recognition of current public health restrictions. Advisory Council discussed Special Areas 2020 financial performance, including uncollected tax levels. The group formally approved the 2021 road program as local road committees had reviewed it earlier this spring. The continuing decline in assessment was also discussed, along with anticipated decreases in municipal grant funding and other revenue pressures over the next three years.

The group welcomed presenters from the Starland Seed Cleaning Plant who shared an update on the proposed seed cleaning plant project, including funds raised locally. Council commended the group on the progress they have made and discussed how the project could provide value to producers in the region. Mark Nikota, Economic Development Manager with Cactus Corridor Economic Development Corp. joined the group to talk about some of the exciting work being executed in the Special Area No. 2 region. Later that day, the group welcomed MLA Nate Horner who shared his insights on upcoming legislation. Council thanked MLA Horner for his hard work advocating for the region and congratulated him on his new role on Treasury Board. The group shared their concerns on municipal finances, especially considering decreasing provincial funding, declining assessment, rising levels of uncollected taxes, and increasing costs like provincial policing.

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At the Council’s roundtable discussion Advisory Councillors provided updates on their work with external boards and committees where they represent the Special Areas. The focus on finding efficiencies and controlling costs was a consistent priority for the group, as well as ensuring sustainable requisitions levels for municipalities in the region. Some highlights included the expression of interest process for the Oyen Railyard and the AHS partnership project in Oyen supporting new dementia and assisted living beds. Ratepayer meetings were also discussed. As a result of public health restrictions, the 2020 annual ratepayer meetings were moved online in place of tradition in-person meetings. The group recognized annual ratepayer meetings are critical for residents to have an opportunity to engage locally with elected officials and administration. Advisory Council directed administration to determine the most effective way to support local engagement for 2021 ratepayer meetings while still respecting current public health restrictions.  October’s general municipal election was also discussed, with key changes to provincial legislation presented which will impact this municipal election.

The next meeting of the Special Areas Advisory Council will be held summer 2021. To learn more about Advisory Council, visit www.specialareas.ab.ca.

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