By Cole Parkinson
With budget season coming into view for the Municipal District of Taber, their finance committee provided a list of 2019 budget recommendations to be passed by council.
During their meeting on December 11, council got a chance to discuss the proposed list of interim budget recommendations.
In the memo for the 2019 preliminary budget, the finance committee projected a $315,219 operating budget deficit which includes a non-cash expense of $4,232,077 for amortization.
The preliminary budget includes an increase of $603,934 in municipal property tax rates which comes with an estimated increase of 3.75 per cent in residential and farmland property tax mill rates and a 4.25 per cent increase in non-residential property tax mill rates.
In these proposed changes, the operating budget projects a net 2019 property tax revenue increase of $3,934 from the 2018 budget to 2019 budget.
Additional allowances for uncollectible taxes or reduced assessment in non-residential assessment categories totals $600,000 in the 2019 budget and the M.D. has reserved $887,000 as uncollectible property tax attributable to oil and gas properties.
Of the 13 recommendations on the list, nine items didn’t elicit long discussions from council, though the information was provided in the meeting agenda package.
One of the first recommendations from the committee was recommending council make a motion that the topic ‘tax collection date’ be added to the agenda of the annual general meeting next spring.
Council was in favour of the recommended motion and passed it unanimously.
The next recommendation stems from the 2019 capital equipment purchases to be approved and for request for proposals to be developed for the equipment with an additional requirement for ‘a lease for purchase’ for the super B gravel trailer.
The 2019 capital equipment purchase list includes eight public works capital items, three Ag Service Board (ASB) capital items, two capital items for hamlets and parks, one for the Regional Fire Authority and two for administration/GIS and IT.
Under public work items with estimated prices are a grader 872G/160M AWD ($550,000), loader 966K ($550,000), highway tractor ($175,000), bellydump/super B trailer ($125,000), shop air compressor ($30,000), storage containers ($20,000), supervisor ($45,000) and crew cab 3/4 ton ($50,000).
ASB lists a 15’ roadside mower ($70,000), UTV sprayer ($35,000) and three landfill skid steers ($225,000) while hamlets and parks have a mower with 6 ft front mount ($175,000) and utilities crew cab 1/4 ton ($40,000). Regional Fire Authority only lists a wildland unit for the Hays Fire Department ($13,000) and administration lists a director of planning truck ($60,000) and server hardware setup and configuration ($70,000).
The total estimated cost for all capital items is $2,233,000 while disposal return is at $573,000 which equals to a net total of $1,666,000. Council voted unanimously to pass the recommended motion.
Council also got a look at 2019 to 2021 internal construction projects and 2019 to 2024 contracted projects with the recommendation to adopt all.
In 2019 for internal force, the M.D. has six construction crew projects with seven grading projects including harvest, 2020 sees five construction crew projects with 10 grading projects plus harvest and 2021 lists four construction crew projects with nine grading projects with harvest.
Contract capital projects for 2019 include the Vauxhall truck stop, Jensen drain southeast 15-10-15 culvert bore, Range Road 18-2 south of Highway 526 and Bridge File 80155, 2020 has soil cement/chip seal Range Road 16-5 to 13-0 (one mile) and Purple Springs grader shop (relocate old welding).
In 2021 it lists soil cement/chip seal of Township Road 9-4 from Highway 36 to Range Road 16-4 while 2022 to 2024 only lists project reserve Township Road 10-0 from Range Road 16-4 to 15-4 mill/inlay 60 mm (5.5 miles).
“It’s a live working document so if we feel at any time the need to change it in the new year, it is something we can revisit,” added Coun. Jennifer Crowson.
Council made a motion to adopt 2019 to 2021 internal construction and 2019 to 2024 contracted projects and passed it unanimously.
Upon recommendation, council also made a motion to direct administration to develop a three-year financial plan for the completion of the campus site and was passed unanimously.
After previous discussion around snow removal in M.D. hamlets, the finance committee recommended council pass a motion that hamlet sidewalk snow removal be continued provided that the service is only offered Monday to Friday.
While council was in favour of the Monday to Friday schedule but as Grassy Lake wasn’t originally included in the service, council wanted to explore if it was needed.
“We have to look at what’s best for the municipality as a whole. Perhaps next year we won’t be able to afford snow removal because we won’t have the staff. If this year we can and we already committed to Monday to Friday I would vote in favour and investigating (Grassy Lake). I’m not in favour of adding a full operation,” stated Deputy Reeve Tamara Miyanaga.
Council made a motion that hamlet sidewalk snow removal be continued provided that the service is only offered Monday to Friday while investigating what happens in Grassy Lake, and was passed 6-1 with the lone opposing vote coming from Coun. John Turcato.
The preliminary budget for the M.D. of Taber Fire Department was in front of council to view as well.
It listed their total revenue at $242,137 with $118,084 coming from the Vauxhall department, $75,000 coming from the M.D. department, $5,000 from Grassy Lake, $5,000 from Enchant, $5,000 from Hays and $34,053 from Barnwell.
Revenues stem from donations (not budgeted due to random nature of donations), local government transfers, sales to other governments (provincial and federal), grants and EMS coordination.
Expenses are totalled at $1,150,699 with $1,005 coming from general fire, $331,286 from Vauxhall, $428,058 from the M.D., $95,700 from Grassy Lake, $88,100 from Enchant, $90,300 from Hays and $56,250 from Barnwell.
Expenses come from salaries, honorariums and benefits, contracted and general services, materials, goods, supplies and utilities, and transfers to other governments.
Net revenue (expenditure) before amortization was at $908,562 and amortization was set at $144,096 for a total net revenue of $1,052,658.
Council voted unanimously to pass the 2019 regional fire service operating budget. They also voted unanimously to request the director of municipal lands and leases bring back recommendations for land and oil lease rental reviews.
Finally, council tabled the employee and seasonal employee handbook to a future meeting.