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LRT tax levy derails

City council did not jump on board an idea to create a new tax levy that a city councilor proposed as a way to kick-start funding plans for an LRT line to St. Albert. Coun.
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City council did not jump on board an idea to create a new tax levy that a city councilor proposed as a way to kick-start funding plans for an LRT line to St. Albert.

Coun. Len Bracko pitched the idea on Monday during the waning hours of the 2010 budget review. He appealed to council to create a separate LRT levy on property tax bills, a move that would have charged property owners $1 per $100,000 of assessment starting in 2010.

For a home worth $400,000 the levy would have meant an extra $4 in property taxes a year. Citywide the levy would have added less than $100,000 in revenues in 2010, money Bracko proposed depositing into a reserve — a first among Capital region municipalities outside Edmonton.

Bracko recognized the levy would only have generated a modest amount for reserves, but said it would send a strong message to the federal and provincial government that St. Albert supports making the region a greener place to live.

“I think it’s important we set up an LRT reserve. We know that Edmonton is coming forward with their LRT [line to NAIT], so it’s important we plan for the future here,” said Bracko. “Being in politics 20 years, you realize the length of time it takes to get something going. This is looking at the future of St. Albert and we have to start somewhere.”

Other members of council agreed the idea certainly had merit, but the majority were not on board, at least for now.

Coun. James Burrows pointed out that, due to the current economic situation the provincial government is in, it’s unlikely new public dollars will be put toward public transit. The province’s recent second-quarter update reduced to zero the amount of transit dollars for Green TRIP.

Burrows said a conversation with Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette convinced him that municipalities might not receive the $2-billion committed under the program.

Mayor Nolan Crouse also agreed the idea is premature. Over a 15-year span he noted the levy would only generate about $1.5 million.

“I really like the spirit of it, but it starts to feel like it’s preliminary,” said Crouse, who questioned whether $1 is even an appropriate sum. “Personally, I would like us to have a little bit more thought at the priorities and planning and really think how we want to start doing this. I have to think about what this really means to us.”

St. Albert’s long-range transportation master plan envisions an LRT line running through the centre of the city along St. Albert Trail. The LRT line isn’t anticipated until St. Albert reaches a population of 105,000, which could be 25 years from now.

Last spring, the city contributed $50,000 to a City of Edmonton engineering study that examines a possible LRT route from the capital to St. Albert. It’s anticipated an LRT line would extend from the proposed NAIT line.




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