By Greg Price
Town council got a look into the 2018 and 2019 operating budgets in a special meeting held last Wednesday as presented by Devon Wannop, outgoing director of finance for the Town of Taber.
“My whole goal for this budget cycle was to to approve a three-year rolling budget. With a rolling budget, any of the people that operate the different costing centres would be able to carry forward any surpluses that they have to future years or be able to catch up on any deficiencies that they overspent on one year for future years to try and balance over the three years,” said Wannop.
The budget presented to council for 2018 and 2019 is balanced, but in doing so, there has been a transfer from capital reserves of $600,000 for both years.
“The reason I am comfortable in making that recommendation is in 2016, we were able to come in with our actual budget from what was budgeted at $1.5 million less (than what was budgeted for). That was made up roughly for $1.1 million more in land sales that we had and some increased fine revenues that weren’t budgeted for. We also didn’t spend the full capabilities of our expenditures ($400,000),” said Wannop, adding in background information that the concept fits in line with the rolling-budget theory, using savings created in prior years to have an offset in future years. “In 2016, you guys will see in the next couple of weeks that our 2016 actuals are very good. With that being available to us, we are able to use that money to make sure the taxpayers are not paying for it in 2018, 2019.”
Besides the transfer from reserves, Mayor Henk DeVlieger inquired what other tweaks were done to the rolling budget in which Wannop responded that amortization had gone up and a reallocation of contracted goods and services.
“That was a reallocation with some of the water and utilities expenses we are seeing in the coming months we are taking that over (from EPCOR). One was lowered by $300,000 while another was increased by roughly that same amount in allocations,” said Wannop. “We adjusted the long-term debt and interest on long-term debt to what it is going to be in the next three years, we will be financing interest that has gone down a little bit.”
For salaries, Wannop factored in increases he anticipated as the same rate as inflation (Consumer Price Index) at two per cent for both years 2018, 2019.
Councillor Randy Sparks noted he struggles on his time on council when you have to take money from reserves to balance a budget.
“Because it’s a shell game or a crystal ball in the future. It looks good now, but I struggle when using projected fine revenues because that is a crystal ball also. I’d prefer to be putting money into reserves as opposed to taking it out,” said Sparks. “I’m hoping after these two years we can start doing that. Our reserves are lessening and lessening every year, when they should be getting more so we are protecting ourselves for the future.”
Mayor Henk Devlieger noted revenues and expenses can be constantly fluid as a given year progresses with the town’s bookkeeping.
“It happened last year and it’s already happening this year too where there was a tender we just approved at our last meeting came in $700,000 under budget. Same thing happened last year where some of the tenders came back under budget,” said DeVlieger. “It’s bookeeping procedures. But I think we’d all agree that we would like to keep our financial base in shape for our reserves.”
Wannop replied he felt like the budget accomplishes that, where at the end of 2018, the town will still be in strong standing.
“To me, this looks like a well presented budget and I want to thank you, the administration and all the town staff. This town has done very well weathering the last couple of years in tough times,” said Jack Brewin, councillor for Town of Taber.
The budget was accepted for information and will be revisited at town council’s March 13 meeting.