News | DrumhellerMail
Last updateThu, 07 Dec 2023 4pm

Horner presents provincial financial update

MLA Nate Horner

Nate Horner, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance delivered a mid year update which he says shows positive results.
Alberta is forecasting a surplus of $5.5 billion in 2023-24, an increase of $3.2 billion from Budget 2023. The province’s fiscal outlook continued to improve in the second quarter of 2023-24, boosted by strong bitumen royalties and higher income tax revenues.
However, volatile oil prices, continued inflation challenges and uncertainty due to slowing global growth could still affect the province’s finances going forward. Debt servicing costs will be higher than previous years due to higher interest rates, reinforcing the importance of the government’s commitment to balance the budget.
“Alberta continues to stand out as a leader when it comes to fiscal stability and economic resilience in the midst of so much global uncertainty. Our second-quarter fiscal update is another positive report, showing strength in Alberta’s finances and economy and positioning us for future growth and prosperity,” said Horner.
The government continues to keep funds in the province’s contingency for disasters and emergencies. The government’s new fiscal framework requires the government to use at least half of available surplus cash to pay down debt, freeing up money that can support the needs of Albertans for generations. The government continues to reduce the province’s debt burden and will pay down a forecasted $3.2 billion in debt this fiscal year.
Alberta’s government is turning its focus to developing next year’s budget, so it supports Albertans’ needs and the province’s economic growth while maintaining the government’s commitment to responsible spending within the fiscal framework. Budget 2024 consultations are open and Albertans are encouraged to share their feedback to help set the province’s financial priorities.
Revenue for 2023-24 is forecast at $74.3 billion, a $3.7-billion increase from Budget 2023. The increase is due to increases across different revenue streams. In addition, the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil is forecast to average US$79 per barrel over the course of the fiscal year, in line with the Budget 2023 forecast.
Personal and corporate income tax revenue is forecast at $21.8 billion, $1.8 billion higher than at budget. Bitumen royalties are forecast at $14.4 billion, an increase of $1.8 billion from budget. Overall resource revenue is forecast at $19.7 billion, $1.3 billion higher than the budget forecast.
On the expense side, expenses for 2023-24 is forecast at $68.8 billion, a $481-million increase from Budget 2023. Capital grants are up marginally from Budget 2023, but down from the first-quarter forecast, mainly due to funding schedules for Calgary and Edmonton LRT projects. Debt servicing costs are forecast to increase $309 million from budget, a reflection of ongoing high interest rates and inflation.
$1.2 billion in disaster and emergency costs are forecast for the current fiscal year, which inscludes $750 million for fighting wildfires in the province, $165 million for AgriRecovery to support livestock producers affected by dry conditions, $253 million to provide financial assistance to communities for uninsurable damage from spring wildfires and summer flooding and $61 million for evacuation and other support.

Community shows support for Red Bag Food Drive

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Once again, the community showed its support for The Salvation Army and the people it supports the Christmas season and all year round.
The Red Bag Food Drive has become a tradition in the valley, helping to stock the local food bank for the coming holiday season and into the new year. Volunteers took to the streets on Thursday, November 30, collecting non-perishable food donations from neighbourhoods throughout Drumheller and beyond.
“The word that came to me first was that I was humbled,” Major Robert Burrell tells the Mail. “I was blown away by the response this drive had for us. I was truly amazed. We are thankful beyond all expectations, it allows us to continue to do what we are doing.”
He says even before the Christmas campaign kicked into action, the shelves of the local foodbank were getting depleted.
“This put us back up, both to meet our giving, which goes up at this time of year and our day-to-day demand on our services,” said Burrell.
While they haven’t been able to do a tally on the food collected, he says the numbers were well up at the food drive.
He is grateful for the support of the community, and also the volunteers. There were teams, clubs, and organizations all helping out as well as regular private individuals who took away from their own time to support the community, not only collecting the donations, but organizing logistics and helping sort.
Residents who find themselves in need over the holiday season can still register for a Christmas basket and toys by calling the Salvation Army at 403-823-2215 to book an appointment. Registration is open to December 14. Despite this, Burrell says even if people are not able to register in time, they will do their best to help out however they can.
The Christmas Campaign is going strong, and this Saturday residents can show their support at the Drumheller Dragons game, where they will host the annual Teddy Toss. The donated teddy bears, thrown to the ice at the Dragons’ first goal, will be donated to the Salvation Army and the Drumheller Health Centre.

Kneehill continues budget talks

Kneehill County Council

Kneehill County is tapping into a reserve it put away for a rainy day to balance its budget.
Kneehill County Council continued its budget deliberations at its Tuesday, November 28 meeting. Going into the meeting, council was looking at an over $2.6 million operational shortfall.
When debating the budget, they were able to whittle that number down by phasing its increase in capital equipment contributions over two years, which reduced its shortfall by approximately $500,000. It also delayed the transition of reallocating its investment revenues from operating budgets to its reserve.
Reeve Kenneth King noted that with a residential tax rate change of 4 per cent, farm of 17.5 per cent and non-residential of 3.75 percent, a slight reduction in the residential-non residential ratio, “At this time it is leaving us with a $516,000- and change shortfall.”
In discussing how to address that shortfall, council considered using its Revenue Stabilization reserve.
“…Which is money we have collected in the past to allow for bumps in revenue in the future,” said King.
Deputy Reeve Jerry Whittstock explained, “The reason that Revenue Stabilization Fund was set up for exactly these purposes. We knew there were going to be these deficits coming into the budget. The budget was going to be something we had to deal with.”
Councillor Laura Lee Machell-Cunningham was not supportive of the suggestion.
“I have to go against the grain, but I am not in favour of using our Revenue Stabilization fund. I would be more in favour of cutting back on some of our new initiatives because we simply can't afford that,” she said.
Reeve King noted that if the council decided not to implement some of its new, initiatives such as more weed control and increased mowing the savings would be less than $300,000 and would not cover the shortfall.
Deputy Reeve Wittstoick made the motion to use the fund to balance the budget. Council voted in favour, with councillors Cunningham and Carrie Fobes voting in opposition.
The budget will be brought back on December 12 for approval.


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