By Tim Kalinowski on October 13, 2017.
Cypress County Ward 4 Longfellow election questionnaire
1. What is the right balance, in your opinion, between preservation of agricultural lands and subdivision development in Cypress County?
2. Cypress County has a number of undeveloped road allowances, gravelled grid roads and highways which all require regular maintenance at an enormous cost to taxpayers. What would be your highest priority if elected in terms of county road spending? Why?
3. Hamlets have special infrastructure needs other areas of the county do not have, whether that be water and sewer, street paving or community facility maintenance. Do you feel hamlets are currently well-served by Cypress County? What initiatives would you support to enhance hamlets to make them more attractive to future potential residents?
4. Cypress County’s residential, agricultural and commercial taxes are the lowest or near lowest in Alberta. In this era of fiscal crunch, Cypress County may need to raise taxes in one or more of these areas over the next four years. Which area or areas of taxation would you support an increase in, if necessary, when elected?
5. Rural Internet access remains a major problem in the county. In your opinion, is access to the Internet a right or a privilege? Would you support a major county investment in the creation of a local, county-managed Internet service if telecommunications companies continue to show no interest?
1. “I believe that subdivision development, when done in ways that supports sustainable agriculture, presents good opportunities for the county. Country residential properties account for a large amount of the county’s tax base and instead of continuing to raise taxes on these residential ratepayers, perhaps increasing the volume of these subdivisions would not only strengthen our cash flow but it could also provide those looking to make the move into the county the opportunity to do so.”
2. “In the conversations I have been having with residents in my area, the recurring theme that I am hearing is the need for dust control. In areas like the Cavan Lake road where traffic to and from the campground can kick up enormous levels of dirt that directly affects the nearby homes, the county needs to take proactive steps to identifying problem areas and putting in permanent solutions. Strategic planning for roads is critical as we have so many of them and not everyone of them can be paved or oiled. There needs to be a balance between maintenance and upgrades.”
3. “I think that service and maintenance are two different things . . . Maintenance should be on a schedule that is constant and proactive. Services to our hamlets could be made better by seeing to the completion of the existing water co-op projects to help bring city water to all properties within a 10-km radius of the city or by seeing to it that recreational opportunities that are county specific are available to our residents. The walking paths in Dunmore is a good example of this, or supporting community partnerships like the Dunmore Equestrian Arena, or private ventures like the Forsyth Arena . . . All of these encourage experiencing country life and the peace and serenity that our surroundings offer.”
4. “Tax is an ugly beast. It’s necessary in order to operate but it needs to be fair. I support the idea of being among the 25 per cent of communities with the lowest taxes on a long-term basis, but being the lowest creates operating risks and volatile revenue streams. I think fair, low taxes that provide value to ratepayers should be our goals but until we see where we are, identify our needs, and what it’s going to take, it would we unwise to say that any demographic should be immune to tax that is appropriate.”
5. “I consider access to Internet a priority. I support strengthening incentives to the existing companies but I do not support the idea of the county attempting to create or manage their own internet service. If there was an opportunity for such an idea to be profitable private companies would have been on it already. It would be more efficient for us to create new partnerships or joint ventures with existing providers to deliver the service that we desire for our residents.”
1. “It took council several years to create and refine the present land use policies. They were created to allow for orderly development while preserving agriculture. Keep in mind that every new development brings new tax dollars with little or no additional cost to the county. I believe that the present system provides a reasonable balance. Preservation of agriculture land starts with the person who owns it. No one forces an agriculture producer to subdivide his property or to sell it to a developer. Council may approve a development if it meets certain criteria and is deemed appropriate. I will urge council to bring the mill rate on agriculture land back down to 2.9, the same as it is on residential property. This may encourage landowners to keep their land in agriculture instead of developing it.”
2. “A large portion of road construction and maintenance is funded by grant money from the province, and new roads to private property are cost-shared by the property owner. A very small percentage of your tax bill actually goes to roads. The county has tested several soil cement products, and has found one that stands up very well under extreme conditions. It costs about 1/5 as much as oiling. I would like to use this product on a few of our gravel roads that get rutted when it rains and are dusty when it’s dry. I would also like to see some of the oil roads enhanced with this product. The road allowance maintenance program, road shoulder spraying to reduce grader work, roadside spraying to control the spread of weeds, and ditch mowing to improve road safety and reduce snow drifting are also on my priority list if re-elected.”
3. “The hamlets are well served by the county with about $50-million spent on water and sewer, sidewalks and streets in the last few years. The business district is the backbone of every community. If there are no services then it is almost impossible to attract people to live there. I will request council to eliminate the Machinery and Equipment Tax within our hamlets with the goal of attracting some small manufacturers, new businesses, and new residents. The reason that most of our short line equipment comes from small communities in Saskatchewan is that they don’t have an M and E tax. Many of those small businesses eventually grow into large companies bringing in substantial property tax, and employing hundreds of people.”
4. “Cypress County is actually in very good shape. Through good management by previous councils, the county has been able to provide an increased level of services to our ratepayers while building a substantial reserve account without raising the mill rate. As property values increase they automatically bring in more tax dollars. Every new residential and non-residential building constructed brings in new tax dollars. There is no logical reason to increase the mill rate unless this council goes on another spending spree like the premature replacement of several dozen trucks and heavy equipment units in one year. An over budget expenditure like that could have been taken out of reserves without raising the mill rate on agricultural and commercial property. Even though we have tarnished our record of holding a 2.9 mill rate for 30 years we still have the Cypress Advantage.
5. “Cypress County is working on the rural Internet problem. I can’t disclose any information about it, however if re-elected I will continue to support efforts to get reliable high speed Internet to every household and business in the county.”
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