What criteria did Administration consider when developing the funding options?
- $3.5 million be raised for roads and bridges
- Residential and non-residential assessment classes are not to increase because of this initiative
- Fair and equitable among users
- Must meet the requirements of the MGA
- This is a 2016 solution and will be reviewed and revised annually
Now that Option 4 has been passed by council, what projects won’t receive funding?
As Option 4 was passed by council, the County will receive $850,000 less than originally proposed. Below is a table that indicates projects planned for 2016:
|Option 1 Projects - $3.5 Million||Option 4 Projects - $2.65 Million|
|$1.4 Million - Bridges||$1.3 Million Bridges|
$1.35 Million - Roads
$1.35 Million - Roads
|$500,000 - Hard Top Reserves||$0 - Hard Top Reserves|
Are we on target for what was budgeted?
Yes, Lethbridge County is on target for meeting its 2016 budget for the Market Access Network however, due to higher than anticipated gravel costs the total number of miles was reduced to 4 ½ miles of upgrade and 12 ½ miles of full calcium base stabilization. Road reconditioning for the calcium chloride base stabilization treatment finished at the end of August, with bridge replacement and repairs scheduled for fall 2016 and into winter 2017 while the irrigation canals are closed.
Market Access Network 2016 Construction Costs
Roads treated with calcium chloride base stabilization
Range Road 20-3 (from Highway 519 to Township Road 12-0)
Township Road 12-0 (from Range Road 20-3 to Range Road 22-2)
9.7 km (6 mi)
17.7 km (11 mi)
Bridge Replacement and Repairs *Construction on bridges scheduled for fall 2016 into winter 2017.
Bridge Replacement File #79604 (On Township Road 8-2)
Bridge Replacement File #79602 (On Range Road 20-4)
Local Bridge Repairs
What is the Market Access Network?
The County owns and maintains approximately 2,000 km (1250 mi) of paved and gravel roads and 167 bridges. In 2014, the County conducted a haul route network review which prioritized routes based on traffic volumes, local business operations and residential density. This review identified the key roads required to get the producers’ commodities to market. This is simply called the Market Access Network.
Why do we need more money for the County’s Market Access Network?
Road users know the County faces challenges keeping the transportation network in its current condition. More money is needed to reinvest in the Market Access Network for the next 35 years. The standards the network was built to in the 1960 - 1980s did not anticipate the size and volume of today’s heavy haulers.
The County has an obligation to protect and preserve its existing investment. Maintenance and repair costs increase exponentially as the state of repair or condition deteriorates.
Why does the County need the additional revenue now? Can it be deferred for another year?
A municipality has a responsibility of developing a level of service that meets the community’s needs. Lethbridge County is unique, in that it has the highest concentration of intensive livestock operations in Alberta. County producers create their goods for market using static and mobile infrastructure. Static infrastructure includes feedlots, barns and irrigation canals. Mobile infrastructure includes tractors, heavy haulers, seeding and spraying equipment.
The County needs to reinvest in its static infrastructure (roads/bridges) to match the needs of the producers’ mobile infrastructure (tractors/heavy haulers) to stay ahead of deterioration rates. If the County doesn’t re-invest now, potential risks include:
- Imminent road and bridge closures (1 bridge already closed);
- Increasing safety risks (including unsafe school bus routes);
- Increasing liability risks to the County;
- Stopping movement of producers’ mobile infrastructure.
Why is some of the revenue going to reserves?
In order to plan major projects, funds will have to be held in reserves. These funds must be available in order to access Federal and Provincial grant funding or fund major project costs that exceed the average annual revenue collected.
When will we see an improvement in the roads?
Maintenance and upgrade road projects are finished for 2016. Construction is scheduled to continue in 2017.
How will the priority order for fixing roads/bridges be determined?
The worst roads will not necessarily be fixed first. Safety of roads and minimizing liability risks will take precedence. Maintaining the Market Access Network in a manner that keeps the cost of hauling as economical as possible will also be an important factor. The County wants to avoid lengthy detours.
How much is this costing tax payers?
The $3.5 Million will be mainly collected from a business tax on livestock and a special tax on irrigated and dryland farmland. The business tax to producers will be based on a fee per animal unit. The increase in special taxes will depend on your property assessment class. Residential and non-residential (commercial / industrial) properties will not see an increase in their taxes from this initiative.
100% of the money collected will be used specifically for the maintenance and reconditioning of the Market Access Network. No funds will be used in the general operations of the County.
What benefits will result from the increase in taxes?
By providing dedicated long term predictable funding, the transportation network benefits include:
- Reduced road restrictions
- Bridges remain open
- Safe transportation for all users
- Reliable delivery of products to market
What has the County done to minimize the tax increase?
The County has conducted several efficiency reviews, which resulted in the elimination of 2 staff positions: 1 full-time and 1 part-time. A Highway Protection Bylaw has been introduced that allows for preventative measures to minimize damages to the roads. Investigation into new technology with a 4 mile test road for calcium stabilization has identified improved efficiencies. The County is also exploring alternative revenue sources through economic development initiatives.
How much of the 2016 operating budget is spent on maintaining the Market Access Network?
Of the total Public Works operating budget (64.7% of County Operating Budget), 45% goes towards maintaining and improving approximately 1,800 km of gravel roads.
What are the priority Market Access Network routes?
When the County undertook the Haul Route Network review, the prioritization list was identified based on traffic volumes, number of livestock operations and residential density. The County plans to host a series of workshops in 2016 with key stakeholders to confirm the priority Market Access Network routes.
How has the number of units in the Options been determined?
The County is using information from approved license amounts and the Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA) conversion rates to calculate animal units for livestock producers. Gravel tonnage weights have been estimated for the purposes of this calculation. The special tax on irrigated and dryland farming is calculated on assessed values; however, for the presentation of the Options, the tax has been shown on a per acre basis.
Does $3.5 Million have to be collected every year?
The annual costs for maintenance and renewal reinvestment is forecast at $3.5 Million annually. Establishing the source for the revenue can be influenced by changes in the Municipal Government Act, grant funding or transfer payments that may be available from the provincial and federal levels of government. Therefore, the options proposed for 2016 could change next year.
How did you determine the suggested funding options?
Agricultural assessment has been frozen since 1995. Farmland assessment is $156 Million out of the total $1.7 Billion in assessment. A way of collecting additional revenue is needed. The Municipal Government Act (MGA) has limited opportunities by which tax revenue can be collected. Working with County lawyers, the implementation of the business tax to livestock producers and a special tax to crop producers was determined to be the best solutions offered under the MGA.
Why is the County considering implementing a Business Tax for livestock producers?
Lethbridge County adopted a Business Tax Bylaw (Bylaw No. 1165) in 1998. That Bylaw intended to tax Livestock Confinement and Ranch Operations as well as other businesses.
Prior to the County acting on the bylaw to implement the tax, the Province undertook the MLA Farm Property Assessment Issues Review.
The committee noted on page 4 of the report that:
“In particular, municipalities are finding that significant spending increases may be necessary to maintain the roads used by trucks moving animals, produce or supplies to and from intensive agricultural operations. Local governments are restricted, however, in their ability to ensure that the new enterprises are contributing a fair share of tax dollars for those additional infrastructure costs. Municipal councils have little capacity to address this concern, largely because of limitations in the current legislation and regulations for farm land assessment.”
That committee issued its final report in 2002 and unfortunately, the committee’s recommendations have never been implemented by the Alberta Government. Accordingly, the County has now revisited the need to proceed with implementing the bylaw.
Why a Special Tax for irrigation and dryland farming?
While the Business Tax Bylaw captures intensive livestock operations, it does not address the impact of either dryland or irrigated land crop farming. The special tax is calculated on assessed values.
Why doesn't Lethbridge County get a fair share of the gas tax fund and other tax dollars?
The gas tax fund makes up part of all the tax dollars paid in Canada, which includes personal, corporate, GST, and others; of which, Canadian municipalities receive just 8 cents from every tax dollar paid. Tax monies are distributed through grants and are generally allocated on a per capita basis. This provides municipalities with very little money for infrastructure, even though municipalities own 60 percent of the country’s infrastructure.
The County has lobbied all levels of government to increase our share of the gas tax due to our unique situation. However, we have not yet been successful in convincing government to provide us with additional funding.
Why don’t you implement reduced speed limits on our gravel roads?
The County considered this option and prepared a study in 2013. A customer advisory committee was established and research was conducted in similar jurisdictions in the United States for comparison.
The conclusion from this study is lack of speed limit effectiveness. Speed limits must be < 40 km/h to have an impact on roads. As well, imposing speed limits requires additional enforcement which adds costs.
Is there an option for the County to have one bridge designed and use this for several bridge replacements saving the County fees?
No. Alberta Transportation requires an independent engineering file for every bridge construction. There are several variables involved in replacing/upgrading a bridge such as elevation differences, span, slope, road construction and capacity.
What are the Comparison Statistics of the County vs. surrounding Municipal Districts?
What is the Linear Assessment Statistics of the County vs. surrounding Municipal Districts?
Prepared by PWMC in consultation with Lethbridge County