The federal government’s election-year present to municipalities will be worth $6 million to Abbotsford.
The city has yet to decide quite how to spend the one-time windfall.
Last month’s federal budget included a $2.2 billion promise of an extra year’s worth of gas-tax payments to cities and towns across Canada. For Abbotsford, that will amount to just under $6 million in unexpected cash. (The city will also receive the $6 million that had been expected under the ongoing agreement between municipalities, the Province of B.C. and the federal government.)
The money, which is placed in a “community works fund,” can be used for a wide spectrum of public infrastructure projects ranging from public transit to wastewater infrastructure to culture, tourism and recreation projects.
Most recently, the city put $6 million of gas taxes towards improvements to relieve congestion on Fraser Highway. It’s hoped construction on that work, which will add left-turn lanes and improve several upgrades, will begin this year.
In 2019, the city plans to spend gas-tax money from previous years to add traffic signals and crosswalks, build sidewalks, and finance renovations at the Centennial Library.
A city spokesperson said this year’s bonus money had not been allocated.
Abbotsford’s financial plan boasts any number of projects that could use the extra money. The city has already asked for federal and provincial grants – through a program separate from the gas-tax money – to help finance a $10 million expansion for the Matsqui Recreation Centre.
A string of master plans lay out council’s spending priorities for the coming years, but Mayor Henry Braun has said some of those projects could be expedited as opportunities and funding possibilities arise.