Several communities with a stake in an important central Alberta land-use planning service appear to be embracing proposed changes to that organization. 

Two village councils, Alix and Big Valley, approved in principle changes to Parkland Community Planning Services’ (PCPS) funding model at June council meetings.

The first to ponder PCPS’ proposed funding model change was the Village of Alix at their June 7 regular meeting. 

Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michelle White presented councillors with a report describing proposed changes to the formula PCPS employs to get paid for working with municipalities.

“(PCPS) is an intermunicipal services agency providing professional land-use planning and development services to a roster of member municipalities and other clients,” stated the PCPS report. “It is in essence a non-profit consultancy, owned by its members.”

The report noted PCPS needed to change the way it was being paid for work. 

“The existing financial model is not sustainable,” stated the PCPS report. “It has required directors to fully fund their salary and benefits and to run a very lean operation. Experience has shown that it takes significant effort to achieve annual surpluses and to create a financial cushion to see the organization through lean years.”

The report stated that senior PCPS managers not only had to run the organization. and manage staff but participate in a lot of planning work themselves and there were not enough hours to handle all of this work. 

“It was noted some changes were needed that would allow the director to focus on business development and member relations.

Currently, the report stated PCPS member municipalities pay a minimum annual amount for service mainly based on their population, plus fees that have remain unchanged since at least 2016. 

Proposed changes included rate increases which reflect inflation, rates that reflect the job titles of the staff assigned to the work, different rates for members compared to non-members and a membership tier system which offers lower hourly rates for those members willing to pay a higher membership fee. 

The report noted this new approach has the aim of a stable funding base for PCPS while respecting choices made by the membership.

White noted essentially the changes propose lower billable hours for the director and a switch to annual membership rather than a retainer. 

She noted Alix membership would be roughly $1,000, but the village already has such a strong relationship with PCPS that finding a new service would bring costs of its own. 

White added village staff handle some development work themselves but certain complex proposals require a professional planner.

Mayor Rob Fehr stated he felt leaving PCPS and hiring a new planner would be much more expensive than remaining in the organization.

Coun. Janice Besuijen stated this proposal is far superior to the first one that was floated a while back and which she felt wasn’t acceptable.

Alix village council unanimously passed a resolution to accept the proposed new PCPS funding model in principle. The CAO noted other member municipalities are also being consulted on the proposed changes.

Big Valley approves

Big Valley village council also passed a unanimous resolution at their June 8 regular council meeting to accept in principle the proposed new PCPS funding model.

Village CAO Elaine Macdonald presented councillors with the same report Alix council saw. Macdonald stated the proposed changes stemmed from the fact PCPS found it wasn’t making the money it needed to function.

Coun. Clark German noted members knew proposed changes were coming to PCPS. “This one has been in the works for a while,” said German.

Macdonald also noted this was the second proposal for changing PCPS’ funding model, and she suspected the first proposal wouldn’t pass muster as the rates PCPS were asking were too high.

Macdonald stated the village needs a professional planning service and even the new rates are more affordable than hiring a professional planner would be. She also pointed out the tier system and stated councillors would choose which tier Big Valley would pay for.

The CAO noted Big Valley has important planning work ahead, as the land-use bylaw likely needs to be updated.

German added PCPS s a well-run entity and the village needs the service it provides. 

Big Valley councillors approved in principle the proposed funding model.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 15, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   East Central Alberta Review   Coronation, Alberta

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