Budget open houses this week

By Stephen Dafoe

As the Town of Morinville works towards finalizing its 2011 budget, a series of public open houses and meetings will take place this week giving ratepayers an opportunity to ask questions and voice their concerns on the proposed budget.

Council will get its first real look at a draft 2011 budget Tuesday afternoon in a four- to five-hour workshop that is open to the public. The Town will then hold an open house in Council Chambers Wednesday and Thursday night from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.

Morinville’s Chief Administrative Officer Edie Doepker said the open houses are an opportunity for Morinville residents to look at the draft budget and its components a day after it is presented to councillors.

That draft budget is set to go before council for first reading at the Dec. 7 regular meeting of council. Doepker said the feedback received at the open houses will provide council with an opportunity to incorporate changes if necessary into the budget. It is anticipated the 2011 budget will receive third reading at Town Council’s Dec. 21 meeting.

“It’s really just an opportunity to come and find out what’s going on with new initiatives, new projects [and] changes to the budget from last year,” Doepker said, noting there will be graphic displays outlining the areas where changes are being proposed or suggested. “Anything where there’s a service level change or maybe a new service that’s been identified as needed in the community; council will have looked at that and what resources are required to make that happen.”

Doepker hopes residents will come to the open houses to look at the proposed budget and ask questions, particularly given the number of people who shared comments and information with Morinville’s councillors when they were campaigning for office in October.

“There were a lot of suggestion, issues that were identified, desires for some new levels of service,” Doepker said, adding council has taken information gained from the election campaign, Municipal Sustainability Plan process and other venues and incorporated it into their thoughts on what will be the key strategic drivers for 2011. “That has all been incorporated into the budget. If people had anything at all to say during the election process or have any concerns or complaints or things that they say during the year, then it’s incumbent on them to come out and get involved and participate in the process.”

Doepker said it has not been determined what Morinville rate payers are looking at as a tax increase for 2011 and that the decision will not begin to take shape until Nov. 30 when councillors take part in the budget workshop.

“That’s going to be the time when they look at all of these various initiatives and look at the draft budget and determine what that tax rate should be, what people can live with,” Doepker said. “It’s always a fine balance between what people need and want versus what they’re prepared to pay for. Every service level change or new service does add money to what the costs will be.”

The 2011 budget open house takes place Dec. 1 and 2 from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. Council’s budget workshop takes place Nov. 30 at 12:30 p.m. All three events will be held in Council Chambers on the second floor of St. Germaine Plaza.

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