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City reveals ID 349 asks to province, quote that helped change deal in 2017 from surrounding leader

Mayor Craig Copeland addresses city residents at Cold Lake’s sustainability Open House on Wednesday.

The City of Cold Lake’s open house presentation on the city’s financial future revealed the options they pitched the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for a new CLAWR tax revenues agreement and quotes from conversations the City acquired through FOIP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) that led to the restructuring of the deal in 2017, including one from Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski to the previous Minister.

With the theme as sustainability, Mayor Craig Copeland and CAO Kevin Nagoya led the dozens in attendance on Wednesday through a presentation of how City has benefitted from the ID 349 money over the past decade and how tough decisions could be coming if the new deal is not favourable to the City.

The looming question from the presentation could be coming cuts to services the City provides or increasing taxes in the 2020 budget.

On Monday, the City of Cold Lake, M.D. of Bonnyville, Town of Bonnyville Fishing Lake Metis Settlement, Elizabeth Metis Settlement and Glendon will meet the Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu and the future of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range money could be decided.

Each put together their own ideas about how the money should be shared at the Nov. 1 meeting with all six groups.

Cold Lake residents enjoy lunch before the City’s presentation.

The City revealed that they asked for either regional government, creating one of two specialized municipalities from the City, M.D. of Bonnyville, Town of Bonnyville, Glendon and ID 349 – along the lines of Lac La Biche County in the province – create a land bridge from Cold Lake to ID 349, or an equitable distribution of municipal property tax revenue on a per capita basis after the M.D. of Bonnyville is ensured $2.2 million to maintain the road to CLAWR.

When the CLAWR agreement was changed in 2017 to include Bonnyville, Glendon, Fishing Lake and Elizabeth Metis, Cold Lake lost $10 million in revenue.

The City FOIPed documents from the Government of Alberta about meetings within the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, which led to a clipped quote revealed in the presentation from Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski in a letter from Aug. 2017 to the previous Minister Shaye Anderson.

“…Cold Lake will be able to sail into the future with at least $24 million in future reserves guaranteed to them each year to do as they please. Our council fears that this current imbalance will only put Bonnyville at an extreme regional disadvantage, unable to compete due to the ‘lure’ of Cold Lake…,” said Sobolewski.

Two other quotes revealed are from Municipal Affairs to Indigenous Relations and a briefing note that hints a larger discussion to support Indigenous communities is necessary and not use of the ID 349 funds.

2020 budget ramifications, PILT

The City is planning on passing an interim budget on Dec. 23 but has not received the $16 million they’ve spent from 2019 from the province and does not know their share moving forward.

The capital budget in 2020 without ID 349 is $6 million, under $10 million for the first time in a decade.

In 2019, the capital budget was $22 million (36 per cent ID 349), which the City hasn’t received, and the 2018 capital budget was $11.7 million with 65 per cent from ID 349.

Resident property taxes accounted for $20.5 million in 2019, which is 65 per cent of the actual taxes collected and 76 per cent of Cold Lake’s total tax base.

In the presentation, the city said their assessment per capita is $163,219 compared to M.D. of Bonnyville at  $509,232, Town of Bonnyville $176,041 and Lac La Biche County $489,191.

Previously, MLA David Hanson suggested the City had a spending problem with increasing operational costs over a seven-year span from 2012-2019 after Copeland said ID 349 talks were “embarrassing.”

Cold Lake is fighting the Government of Canada in court and claims the feds owe $20 million in property taxes on the 4 Wing air base.

The City said they were successful in their first bout of litigation but has to keep a bad debt allowance on the books while factoring in legal costs.

Municipalities must pass an interim budget before Dec. 31, but can alter it until April 31.

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