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Volume 23, Number 36, Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Fort budget going to be tough

The annexation agreement announced this week between the City of Fort Saskatchewan's and Strathcona County is the best ever made between these two neighbours.

Strathcona and Fort Saskatchewan often cooperate. As partners in Alberta's Industrial Heartland, Heartland Housing and in times of fire and flood, they have been the best of friends really. That is, until Fort Saskatchewan needs more land.

Strathcona has never willingly given up land. County officials have cried foul every since the Fort became a town in 1904, and have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into arbitration.

Alberta officials had to step in during both the 2001 and 1991 border disputes. In 1991 Fort Saskatchewan had to pay  Strathcona $1 million a year for 20 years to compensate for taking over the Dow Chemical land. In 2001 it agreed to a 30 year halt to further growth in return for 185 acres for Westpark.

Rapid growth in this past decade has made a joke of the 2001 agreement. But Strathcona County officials were initially not interested in any discussion. A deal is a deal, they said.

Then along came a new council in Strathcona and Fort Saskatchewan, and a year of reasonable negotiation. The new agreement expands Fort Saskatchewan's border to Partridge Hill Road in return for  further study into shared service and consideration of new governance models.

Though wording of this agreement could mean Fort Saskatchewan might merge with Strathcona, it is unlikely to go that far. Both sides must agree to this, and it is hard to believe Fort representatives will give up their independence.

Instead, we can expect more sharing of things like transit, recreation facilities and perhaps fire or policing services.

Cooperation at last. Now that's a good governance model.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Industrial Heartland marks 20 yearsNEWS/Entries/2018/9/19_Industrial_Heartland_marks_20_years.html

Swords turned into plowshares

Big challenges are ahead for the 2019 budget if Fort Saskatchewan is to avoid a double digit tax hike, City Manager Troy Fleming warned City Council Tuesday.

A drop in photo radar revenue and costs associated to a full-time staff for the fire department are contributing to a need for  $4.7 million more tax revenue, Fleming said. That would result in a tax hike of just over 10 per cent.

Though staff aim to cut that by $3 million before Council debate begins in November, it is going to require a lot of work, he added.

Council will still be looking at a three to four per cent tax hike, he noted.

Photo radar and automatic camera ticket income is half what has been expected — or $2.1 million — due to changes in Alberta ticket procedures, Fleming said.

Hiring full-time firefighters adds $788,000 to the budget.

Other new costs include additional staff at a cost of $208,000, another RCMP officer at $158,000 and cost of living increases to staff salaries totalling $545,000.

One answer might be to dip into Fort Saskatchewan’s savings fund known as the financial stabilization reserve, but that would only create more problems for future budgets, Fleming said.

Council will debate the 2019 City of Fort Saskatchewan budget starting on Nov. 19, with the aim to approve a finished budget on Dec. 11.

Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018