A disagreement between some members of a regional library system about how fees are calculated appears to have been resolved judging by correspondence presented at the last one council meeting in the area.
Parkland Regional Library System (PRL) was the subject of two letters that were presented as official correspondence at the Nov. 2 Alix village council meeting, and the subject in question, census numbers and how they’re used to calculate per capita fees, was also discussed the night before at the Town of Stettler council meeting.
The first letter presented to Alix village council came from Town of Olds Mayor Judy Dahl, who stated the municipality and some other PRL members had concerns about certain census numbers and how they affected that community.
Dahl’s letter, dated Oct. 21, noted the Town of Olds, as a member of PRL, sent a request to the organization’s board of directors to change the membership agreement.
“Olds and several other members believe that PRL’s reliance on Treasury Board statistics is not in line with section 8.3 of the agreement which reads: “’The population of a municipality that is party to this agreement shall be deemed to be the most recent population figure for the municipality as published by Alberta Municipal Affairs.’”
Dahl explained the Town of Olds would like the membership agreement altered to clearly state that PRL use the same census numbers for PRL that Municipal Affairs uses to calculate capital and operating grant funding for municipalities, “…which, at the time of this writing, are the 2016 federal census figures. In other words, the numbers used to determine municipal revenues ought to be used to determine municipal expenditures.
“To be clear, the Town of Olds is not disputing the dollar amount it provides to PRL, as we recognize the value of this organization; instead, Olds takes issue with the choice to use population statistics that are outside the scope of the agreement.”
Dahl went further and stated the communities of Carstairs, Didsbury, Mountain View and Cremona supported Olds’ statements.
Coincidentally, the Alix correspondence also included a written response from PRL board chair Debra Smith, acknowledging the Town of Olds’ request for a change to the membership agreement and its right to do so, but noting the rationale behind the request, that reliance on Treasury Board statistics is not in line with section 8.3 of the membership agreement, required clarification.
“It is this point I wish to clarify,” stated Smith’s letter dated Oct. 27. “The Parkland board consulted a legal opinion on this matter which determined conclusively that using the population figures supplied by Alberta Treasury Board and Finance to invoice municipalities is entirely in accord with our membership agreement.”
Smith went on to explain the Alberta government no longer compiles a Municipal Affairs population list and instructed organizations to use the Treasury Board numbers. She said this was communicated to members in 2021 and discussed a number of times in meetings plus last May PRL developed its proposed budget with the Treasury Board numbers.
“However, it must be stated that based on the legal opinion included with this letter Parkland’s use of the population estimates from Treasury Board and Finance for invoicing municipalities is fully in line with Parkland’s membership agreement,” added Smith in her letter.
On Nov. 1 at the Town of Stettler regular council meeting Coun. Gord Lawlor, during council reports, noted this issue keeps coming up at board meetings and appears to revolve around communities that are experiencing rapid growth.
During the Alix council meeting the village’s council delegate to the group, Coun. Barb Gilliat, confirmed that PRL obtained a legal opinion on the issues raised by the Town of Olds’ letter and the legal response was that PRL was within its authority to use the Treasury Board numbers.
Hence, stated Gilliat, PRL was following their policies and bylaws properly.
Alix Mayor Rob Fehr voiced confusion at the council meeting, noting he felt this issue had been resolved yet it was still showing up at council meetings.
Gilliat responded it’s likely going to be talked about at another PRL board meeting and perhaps the matter will be decided by majority vote.
A request for comment was sent to the Town of Olds by the ECA Review Nov. 4, but no response was received by deadline.
A message was left for PRL Executive Director Ron Sheppard by the ECA Review Nov. 7 but it was noted he was out of the office until Nov. 8.
The Town of Olds Mayor Dahl responded to the ECA Review request for comment by email Nov. 9 thusly: “The Town of Olds does not dispute the legal opinion’s accuracy, instead, we believe the use of Treasury Board numbers is the only question the lawyer was asked by PRL. If he or she were asked if using Federal Census figures was also a legitimate calculation method, the answer would have also been yes.
The Town of Olds is asking the PRL board to consider amending the agreement as we believe population figures used to tax our citizens should be based on the same figures used to grant dollars to them. And that, in our opinion, was the original intent of the PRL agreement; to use those figures Alberta Municipal Affairs uses to determine capital granting dollars. As our original letter stated, the Town is ok with the total dollars it pays to PRL, we just ask the calculation to determine those dollars be based on standardized population figures.
And as mentioned above, this is just a request. If PRL board members vote and defeat the request, that is their authority, and we will accept that.
We hope this helps to clarify the matter further.
Local Journalism Initiative reporter