Viability Review

The Town of Grande Cache has initiated a viability review. The following are answers to Frequently Asked Questions regarding this topic:

CURRENT STATUS

What is a viability review?

A viability review is a process where a municipality’s governance, finances, infrastructure and services are reviewed to determine whether changes are required for the community to be able to continue to operate as they are currently structured.

What are the next steps in the viability review?

We are currently awaiting the Minister’s response to the Town of Grande Cache regarding whether a viability review will be done. If the Minister decides the viability review is necessary, a Viability Review Team will be formed and we will proceed through the process.

What is Greenview’s role in the viability review process?

Greenview will participate fully in the viability review with representatives on the Viability Review Team when it is formed. We will also provide background information to inform the review process regarding our work with the Town of Grande Cache to date.

Will local residents have input into the viability review process?

Yes. Community involvement will be ongoing throughout the viability review with online, written and in person engagement methods. This may include surveys, written submissions, open houses and public meetings. At the end of the review process, if the Viability Review Team recommends dissolution the decision regarding whether the Town will dissolve will be subject to a public vote by the ratepayers of Grande Cache.

How long will the viability review take?

The timelines will depend on a number of factors, however it is estimated that the review may take around a year or more.

What support has Greenview provided to the Town of Grande Cache to date?

Recently Greenview provided $12 million in capital funds to the Grande Cache Recreation Facility. Part of this was debt forgiveness from a 2013 repayment plan for the project. In 2016 Greenview’s direct funding to the Town of Grande Cache is $3.45 million, nearly 30 per cent of the Town’s annual operating budget. $2.8 million is given to the Town through a Community Development Agreement. The funds contribute to the Tourist Information Centre, Recreation, Library, Home Support and Fire Department. Indirect funding includes support for the Willmore Wilderness Foundation, Golf Course, Day Care, Fire Hall, and Greenview’s municipal roads in the area including the Forestry Trunk Road.

How much of Greenview’s resource base is in the Grande Cache area?

Last year, the ward surrounding Grande Cache represented approximately 12.5 per cent of the total municipal tax assessment for the M.D. of Greenview, $9.5 million.

Municipalities govern based on strategic priorities. This means that funds from one area of the municipality aren’t spent in that area of the municipality alone, but are allocated on projects that are in the best interest of the entire municipality based on decisions made by Council.

Why doesn’t Greenview currently provide the Town of Grande Cache with more money?

Any financial commitment that Greenview makes needs to be dealt with fairly.  When responding to funding requests, Greenview gives consideration to current and future capital and operational commitments, agreements with the three towns within our borders, other neighbouring municipalities, and our existing ratepayers throughout the municipality. It would be unfair to our other stakeholders for the M.D. of Greenview to provide the level of funding that the Town of Grande Cache has requested.

Funding requests from the Towns within our borders (Greenview’s urban partners) are treated fairly while considering our primary duty is to our ratepayers. A dollar commitment for one urban partner will often lead to a comparable request from the other two urban partners which will need to be considered by Council.

The Town of Grande Cache wrote a letter to the M.D. of Greenview requesting $11.5 million annually. This would have meant that going forward, Greenview would be contributing 80 per cent of the Town’s annual budget. At that level of funding it signifies that a municipality may not be viable on its own so Greenview Council recommended that the Town approach the Minister of Municipal Affairs to begin the viability review process.

By comparison, how many kilometres of roads and other infrastructure does Greenview currently maintain?

There are over 2,500 km of paved and non-paved roads within Greenview. Maintaining quality infrastructure requires long term investments. Annually, Greenview spends $10 million on maintaining the Forestry Trunk Road, one of our major infrastructure responsibilities. The Town of Grande Cache by comparison has 34 km of roads within their municipal boundaries.

FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS

How would Grande Cache residents be represented on the municipal council if the Town becomes a hamlet in Greenview?

The number of representatives from the Grande Cache area would initially be determined by the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Under the Municipal Government Act, municipalities have the ability to set their wards through a ward boundary review. A ward boundary review is conducted if there are significant changes to the municipality’s population or other factors. If Grande Cache were to become a hamlet it is anticipated that any future review would also look at the ward structure in the Grande Cache area.

Will Grande Cache property owners be paying the same taxes as they do currently if the Town becomes a hamlet in Greenview?

The M.D. of Greenview would set the tax rates and has the option to levy different tax rates for different areas of Greenview. Debt that has been generated by the Town of Grande Cache could be designated for repayment by Grande Cache residents.

What are the current tax rates? Would Grande Cache pay these rates if it becomes a Hamlet within Greenview?

Tax rates are set by Council. The tax rates would be higher within the Grande Cache municipal service area than the rest of Greenview due to higher level of services. It is possible that the rates for Grande Cache would be lower than they are now.

Will tax rates for the rest of Greenview increase if the Town of Grande Cache dissolves?

Greenview Council is committed to ensuring that taxation of our residents is fair and reflects a proactive approach to building and maintaining quality infrastructure and services. Greenview will also need to respond to any future changes in our incoming revenue due to changes in the economy. If Grande Cache dissolves, Greenview can designate a tax rate specific to Grande Cache to ensure that the debt of the dissolved municipality doesn’t negatively impact ratepayers elsewhere.

If Grande Cache becomes a hamlet would the Town’s debt be taken over by Greenview?

When a municipality undergoes a viability review its assets and liabilities are taken into consideration and negotiations take place with both municipalities and the Department of Municipal Affairs. If the Town’s debt will be assumed by the M.D. of Greenview upon dissolution, Greenview could take steps to ensure that Grande Cache’s debt doesn’t negatively impact the rest of our ratepayers by setting a tax rate that is specific to Grande Cache.

How would services be delivered in Grande Cache if it were to become a hamlet within Greenview?

The level of service provided throughout the municipality is determined by Council. Staff will be needed in Grande Cache to deliver services.

VIABILITY REVIEW BACKGROUND

What does dissolution mean?

Dissolution is a municipal restructuring process outlined in the Municipal Government Act (Sections 130 to 134.1). If the Town of Grande Cache were to dissolve it would no longer exist as a legal entity and local governance would be transferred to a neighbouring municipality, in this case the Municipal District of Greenview (Greenview).

What does becoming a hamlet in the MD of Greenview mean?

The Minister of Municipal Affairs would change the Town’s governance structure to a hamlet governed by the M.D. of Greenview. The reclassification as a hamlet would take place at the municipal government level only. Ratepayers’ ownership of their property will not change. A hamlet isn’t based on population, but on the governing structure. Two examples of hamlets which exist within a larger municipality in the province of Alberta are Sherwood Park and Fort McMurray. Greenview currently has five hamlets: Grovedale, Landry Heights, DeBolt, Ridgevalley and Little Smoky.

What are the steps in a viability review?

The municipality considering a viability review must write to the Minister of Municipal Affairs to request that a review take place. Once the request is received by Municipal Affairs, ministry staff review the request and conduct a screening to determine what viability issues exist in the municipality and if an alternate Municipal Affairs process such as a municipal corporate review, a municipal inspection, an audit or other process is more appropriate to address the issues found in the municipality. If a viability review is determined to be the most appropriate process, the Minister will initiate a viability review for the municipality.

Phase one, viability determination, involves the formation of the Viability Review Team, information collection and analysis, stakeholder engagement, and the initiation of an infrastructure assessment or infrastructure audit. At the end of this process the Viability Review Team will make a viability determination with the municipality under review being determined to be clearly viable or trending towards non-viability.

If the municipality is determined to be clearly viable, the review will end there. If the municipality is determined to be trending towards non-viability, the viability review will continue to the second phase where a viability plan is developed for the community.

Phase two, the viability plan, consists of additional information gathering and analysis, facilitated discussions with all affected municipalities, and the development of a viability plan. Additional community engagement may also be conducted in this phase. The viability plan will provide the community with options to achieve viability. Options may vary, but there are typically at least two options: remaining as a municipality with changes made to the way the municipality is administered or governed; or dissolution.

If the Council votes in favour of dissolution a public vote is held by ministry staff to determine the community’s preference on the options presented.

What is the Viability Review Team?

A viability review is a democratic process led by a committee called the Viability Review Team that consists of representatives from Municipal Affairs, the municipality being reviewed, the neighbouring municipality and municipal associations such as the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties.

The team’s mandate includes leading the viability review process; developing a viability plan if it is required; engaging with stakeholders and liasing with their respective organizations. The Viability Review Team will gather information from sources such as federal and provincial governments, municipal councils and administration, residents and property owners in the Town. The Committee will analyze this information, compare it to other similar municipalities and best practices for municipal governments. After thorough analysis, the Viability Review Team will make a recommendation regarding the town’s viability.

Are other communities currently undergoing a viability review?

Yes, currently the Villages of Berwyn, Champion, Clyde, Ferintosh, Hill Spring, Hussar, Rycroft and Willingdon are in various stages of viability review. Previous viability reviews have been completed for the Town of Swan Hills and the Villages of Cremona, Galahad, Minburn and Strome.

Who can I contact for more information?

Municipal Affairs Municipal Sustainability Team

Phone: 310-0000 then 780-427-2225

municipalsustainability@gov.ab.ca

 

Town of Grande Cache

Loretta Thompson, Chief Administrative Officer

Phone: 780.827.3362 extension 26

loretta.thompson@grandecache.ca

 

Municipal District of Greenview

Mike Haugen, Chief Administrative Officer

Phone: 780.524.7600

mike.haugen@greenview.ab.ca