If you missed Premier Alison Redford’s conversation with Albertans Thursday night, it is probably because you were getting ready to watch the Oilers game. Judging by commentary among acquaintances on Facebook Thursday night, Yakupov’s game-saving goal that drove the Oilers into overtime was of far greater importance than the current state of the province or what that might mean to funding programs or raising taxes down the road. Not sure why that whole turning our backs on the hockey season because of the lock out business fizzled so fast, but I digress.
It is somewhat redundant to comment on Redford’s “conversation” now that it is a few days past. Media and bloggers criticized the use of the word conversation. I think that is unfair. There was a conversation. She was talking to me and I was most certainly talking back to the television. She couldn’t hear me of course. Good thing for her. There was considerable profanity involved on my side of the conversation.
Using words like family to make us all want to sing Kumbayah around the campfire, and blaming the low price the province gets for bitumen, Premier Redford went on to assure us she would be mindful of Albertans’ desire not to have taxes go up. No, raising taxes would be the easy way, and the government was going to take the hard path of living within its means.
But the reality is the government has ways of raising taxes without taking the fall for it. The fall comes at the expense of Morinville, Legal, Sturgeon County and every other city, town and village in this province.
That $6 billion shortfall the province is expecting is equal to the amount they spend on education each year, and what they spend on education is derived from the school requisition the municipalities collect on the province’s behalf.
Morinville had anticipated a 2 per cent increase to the Alberta School Foundation Fund in 2012; however, those figures came in at 12 per cent.
Last year’s $2.6 million requisition was $300,000 greater than what the province requested of the community in 2011. Oddly enough we’d heard around that time as well from the province that taxes would not go up.
Sadly, too few of us understand that when our spring tax bill takes a spike, it is not always because the municipality is spending too much. School requisitions account for a good chunk of our property tax bill, and it is the municipality – and not the province – that takes the abuse on the increase.
So while we can nod our heads at $55,000 state-of-the-province addresses, some of us assured taxes will not go up, keep a close eye on the school requisition line on your spring tax notice, and compare it to last year. We’ll let you know what the increase was when the mill rate is set.
The provincial budget will come down in March. It will be interesting to see what else the province downloads on the municipalities.
But who knows, maybe Yakupov will save us in the final seconds of the budget’s third period.