Council mulls census frequency of every five years

Council mulls census frequency of every five years

St. Albert City Council is considering permanently changing the frequency at which municipal censuses are taken to every five years instead of every two years starting in 2023.

St Albert City Council is considering changing the frequency with which municipal censuses are taken, as a plan to take one every five years instead of every two years from 2023 will be up for a vote next month.

During the standing committee of the full meeting on Jan. 17, the council unanimously passed an administration recommendation that a municipal census be conducted every five years, beginning this year at roughly the middle point between the federal government’s census, which also occurs every five years. The last federal census was completed in 2021.

Although passed unanimously at the committee meeting, the council will need to re-enact the motion at a regular council meeting next month for the policy to be amended. As the recommendation has yet to be approved by the Council, there is no timeline for when a census will take place this year.

The council heard Jan. 17 that the estimated cost of this year’s census ($160,000) was included and approved as part of the 2023 budget, although $127,887 of that cost will be covered by what’s in the city’s census reserve remains.

If the recommendation is approved, $40,000 each year from taxes will be added to the reserve to fund the census every five years, according to a background report prepared by the city’s director of legal and legislative services, David Leflar .

“That would build a $200,000 fund for a census every five years,” Leflar wrote. “We anticipate that this should be sufficient to conduct a high-quality and useful municipal census every five years for the foreseeable future.”

During the meeting, Mayor Cathy Heron said she supported the administration’s recommendation but was concerned the council was unaware that the costs of this year’s census were included in the 2023 budget.

“It felt like it was buried in the budget,” Heron said. “Actually [searched] the word “census” throughout the budget document [and it was] not there.”

Many council members supported the change during the meeting, recognizing the value that municipal censuses have in city decision-making.

“It’s important to understand the importance of getting accurate census data as it feeds our service levels and all of our grants that we not only receive from various levels of government but also the grants that we send to our own residents,” “Count. said Ken MacKay.

count. Natalie Joly also supported the administration’s recommendation, saying: “I think this type of information is so valuable when we get into planning for anything, so I really appreciate the pitch and look forward to seeing the results of this year’s census.” .”

count. Sheena Hughes said completing the census is important so the city doesn’t rely on other governments’ population-tracking methods.

“Actually, to take some control of it, especially because it has so much to do with it [provincial] funding, is a must,” Hughes said.

After the city’s last census was completed in 2018, the city council voted to suspend future censuses because the provincial government decided in 2019 to no longer use city population figures to determine per capita grant funding, instead agreeing to internal estimates based on the most recent federal census, according to Leflar’s background.

However, during the committee meeting, Leflar said the Department of Municipal Affairs had informed the administration that it was working to reverse course and an announcement is expected earlier this year that the province would resume using municipal census figures to inform decisions about the to grant grants.

Leflar also wrote behind the scenes that the council’s decision to postpone the 2020 census and consider changing the frequency was also due to the province’s plan at the time to end the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) grant program, which was a significant Decline in funding would mean for St. Albert.

The province’s plan to end the program means “cost reductions for the 2020 budget [was] a high priority” for St Albert’s Council, Leflar wrote, adding that the cancellation of the 2020 census meant $90,000 was deducted from that year’s tax base.

Since then, the provincial government has announced that the MSI program will be replaced by the Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF).

The LGFF, which comes into effect in 2024, will continue to provide the necessary funds to municipalities, but the formula by which the allocations from municipalities will be calculated has yet to be finalized. Next year, the LGFF will distribute $722 million to municipalities, although $382 million is to be split between Calgary and Edmonton.

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