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Town reserves drawn on heavily in recent years

Posted on October 23, 2019 by Taber Times

By Trevor Busch
Taber Times

With deliberations underway for the 2021 capital budget, Taber town council is considering a series of amendments for the 2020 capital budget that had already been approved during the previous budget cycle.

Administration is seeking council’s approval of the proposed capital projects in order to determine which projects will be funded by grants, reserves and/or debt, and to identify the 2020 – 2024 projects they want to move forward with and establish a strategic approach to capital contributions from the operating budget.

In 2020, contributions to the capital fund from operating totals $2,144,718.

“Since the yearly capital contributions does not keep up with the projects done yearly, there is pressure to use more from reserves,” stated administration in their background to the deliberations at council’s Sept. 23 meeting. “This approach will deplete our reserves in the years to come.”

In 2018, the town’s capital reserves totaled $13,071,666.44, up from a five-year low of $9,186,612.96 in 2015. Operating reserves have seen more pressure in recent years, falling from a five-year high in 2014 of $1,465,922.29 to less than half that amount in 2018, at $716,247.72.

Operating reserves reached their lowest figure in five years in 2017, with $675,653.91. Total combined reserves for 2018 (capital and operating) are $13,787,914.16.

Approved capital projects for 2020 total $8,576,900.

Administration is proposing an additional $5,299,500 in capital projects be added to the budget, for an amended total of $13,876,400.

Some of the highlights from the already approved projects for 2020 include the 56th Avenue Road Extension ($2,624,000); 62nd Avenue Cast Iron Replacement – 50th Street to 54th Street ($1,150,000); and a Small Ice Arena Upgrade ($1,600,000).

Amendments to the approved 2020 capital budget for Engineering and Public Works includes the Arena-Community Centre-Aquafun Parking Lot (additional $150,000 for $500,000 total); Community Centre-Curling Rink Parking Lot ($625,000); Legion Parking Lot ($90,000); Administration Building Parking Lot ($110,000); Water Meter Replacement Program (transferred to operating budget, removing $50,000); Skid Steer with Grader Attachment – Replacing Tool Cat (additional $4,500 for $89,500 total); Portable Speed Sign ($5,500); LED Flashing Cross Walk Lights – 50th Avenue and 53rd Street ($11,000).

“Our portable speed sign was vandalized, we put this in the budget, we didn’t know if council wanted to purchase another one, or not,” said public works director Gary Scherer.

Coun. Jack Brewin inquired if the sign would be covered by the town’s insurance.

“I think it was $5,500, and our deductible was $4,000,” replied Scherer. “So you’re not gaining.”

In Planning, the department is seeking a vehicle ($40,000); Eureka Industrial Subdivision Phase 3B Option 2 Engineering and Construction ($3,295,000); Eureka Industrial Subdivision 62nd Street Extension ($323,000); and the Eureka Industrial Subdivision 56th Street Water Main Looping ($394,000). For Information Technology, GIS In-House has been removed ($20,000) and GPS tracking is being sought ($50,000).

“We’re at a point in Eureka where all of the serviced land has been sold…this will allow us to open up all along 62nd and down 56th and be able to sell that land as well, because we’ve had some people coming in that are interested,” said planning director Phyllis Monks.

For Police, additional 2020 asks include a GIS vehicle lease ($7,000); vehicle replacement-CSO/Bylaw ($55,000); Bull Pen Upgrade ($50,000); Carpet – Bull Pen Upgrade ($30,000); End Point Projections ($12,000); E-Ticketing ($17,500); Animal Shelter Increase ($100,000).

Council must adopt a five-year capital plan as per the MGA.

Following discussion, council passed resolutions amending the 2020 budget for the arena concession project, as well as $9,500 for the south trail project on 39th Avenue.

Subsequent proposed additions for the 2020 budget were accepted for information and will be further deliberated by council at upcoming meetings.

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