Council passes second reading of 2012 budget

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – A week after two successful open houses, Morinville Town Council took another detailed look at the proposed 2012 budget during Tuesday night’s council meeting. After debating and shaving $450,500 in spending off the proposed budget, Council voted 6-1 in favour of second reading – Councillor Ben Van de Walle casting the single opposing vote.

The Town’s first draft of the budget, given first reading Nov. 8, showed a post-debenture payment deficit of a $485,645. Adding $602,500 in operation projects brought the total deficit to $1,088,145. That negative number was proposed to be funded from operating reserves in the amount of $1,037,413, leaving an excess deficiency for 2012 of $50,732.

However, input from residents at the open houses held Nov. 14 and 16 gave Council a little clearer insight into what residents wanted to see their tax dollars funding in 2012. Two of those residents, Linda Lyons and Paul O’Dea, were put on council’s agenda Tuesday night, each presenting their ideas on areas that should be cut, could be cut or simply needed a good review.

For Lyons there were a number of concerns, including projects that did not warrant tax dollars funding them. For O’Dea there was a desire to have Morinville have an outside company look at the amount of money being spent on staffing as well as internal efficiencies to see where savings might be had. With respect to Lyons, there were some kindred spirits on Council in terms of projects to be shaved. With respect to O’Dea there was a general agreement that just such a study should be conducted. A notice of motion is set to come to the next Council meeting to ask for just such an assessment.

Plenty of debate on budget

Having had the opportunity to meet and discuss budget spending and projects with Morinville residents over the past week allowed Councillors to bring those concerns to Tuesday night’s debate together with their own ideas about what should be cut.

Councillor David Pattison advocated for reducing the $80,000 earmarked for economic development to $40,000. “Having not done economic development in some years, I think that number is adequate,” Pattison said in arguing his point. The motion was carried unanimously.

Pattison also advocated squashing $71,000 for an electronic sign to promote the Cultural Centre and other community events. The councillor had originally suggested allotting $20,000 for a sign or series of signs.

Councillor Paul Krauskopf recommended cutting $60,000 from a proposed $185,000 in spending for technology implementation, citizen engagement and marketing and public relations. Krauskopf also spearheaded another $17,500 in 2012 savings by postponing a multi-term council plan and walking trail signage ($10,000 and $7,500 respectively).

Councillor Holmes first swipe at the budget was advocating reducing $200,000 targeted for a playground in The Lakes District to $100,000. Holmes also pushed for $10,000 in savings by moving funding requests for the Arts Council and Community Gardens to the Community Grants Program which would be increased by $15,000 in 2012. Holmes also recommended granting Vanier School $30,000 for their playground instead of the $60,000 that was in the initial version of the budget. Another $100,000 was saved on the budget by splitting $200,000 in funding for an East Boundary Road Study between 2012 and 2013 by having the project commence midyear. All Holmes’ items were carried by the majority of council.
Councillor Nicole Boutestein requested $42,000 be removed from the budget for smart board and other technology for Town Hall, suggesting those items could be funded by existing renovation project monies. The councillor recommended adding $50,000 to the budget to help provide shelving for the Morinville Public Library’s renovations; however, the motion was defeated 4-3 with councillors Holmes, Boutestein and Van de Walle voting in favour of the additional spending.

Councillors Boutestein and Pattison co-orchestrated another $42,000 in savings by reducing $72,000 in spending for design work on three parks to $30,000. This item was based on a suggestion from Mayor Bertschi to have design students compete to design the parks or take employment over the summer with those projects as a focus.

But not all councillors had money to cut or add on their agenda. Although he raised questions and made comments during the debate, Councillor Gordon Boddez passed on his opportunities to put forth any items to be cut or added, instead spending some considerable time prior to the vote giving a speech on how Morinville must be cautious in raising taxes to the point the community is no longer attractive to current and prospective residents.

“I think that’s the elastic band we are dealing with here,” Boddez said. “At some point it gets too tight and we have to be careful.”

More shavings to be done

But while most of council put into practice a desire to reduce spending by putting forth items to cut, Mayor Lloyd Bertschi put forth a motion for administration to shave an additional $150,000 from the Town’s 2012 operational budget. Councillor Van de Walle asked for the amount to be double; however his amendment was defeated 6-1, his being the only favourable vote. Council then voted unanimously to ask Administration to cut another $150,000 from the operations budget.
Now that budget 2012 has passed second reading, Council will be seeking further input on the budget prior to third and final reading, which is set for Dec. 13. Updated budget documents will be found on the Town of Morinville’s website at www.morinville.ca and comments are welcomed at budget2012@morinville.ca.

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5 Comments

  1. It is extremely discouraging to see how easily and without discussion Town Council cut the Economic Development portion of the Town budget last night.

    I realize that the budget is currently projecting a deficit, and cuts need to be made, but to cut the already measly Economic Development portion of $80,000 in half for a community with a tax base of a 93% residential 7%commercial is unbelievable.

    It is especially astonishing given the fact that a little more than 13 months ago, each and every member of the current council campaigned with an election platform which heavily included Economic Development. As, Councilor Pattison holds designations for BOTH the Canadian Institute of Planners and the Economic Developers of Canada, one would be lead to believe that Economic Development would be an important item in the 2012 budget.

    To utilize the “Having not done economic development in some years, I think that number ($40,000) is adequate,” reasoning for the cut is absolutely absurd. The fact that we haven’t had any form of economic development in a number of years is precisely why we should increase spending.

    Economic Development helps to progress and grow a local economy. This includes added jobs, incentives for new business attraction and current business retention. All in all to have a local economy greatly impacts and positively affects quality of life for community’s residents.

    Dissapointing that Council is not looking forward to establishing a sustainable local economy, which will in the end not only contribute to the tax base but also improve the quality of life for the current and future residents of Morinville.

  2. Hate to burst your bubble Jennifer, but Morinville is, has, and is quite likely to remain: A BEDROOM COMMUNITY! As such, our REQUIREMENT for Economic Development per se, is MINIMAL.

    Yes, it would be nice to have a little more industry in our community, but the reality is a lot of folks come out here to take advantage of what we already have – a little peace and quite and a lot less criminal activity than might be found elsewhere.

  3. Where, Oh where, has our little chamber gone? Oh where, Oh where, have they gone?

    I’m wondering where our chamber of commerce has gone!

    A fifty percent cut of what was proposed for economic development spending in this year’s budget, a full industrial park, still no economic development officer and a Councillor who campaigned on advocating strongly for economic development, yet proposed the cut.

    If now is not the time to act, is there a better time?

    Ps. Jim- all communities start that way and grow to much more.

  4. While I agree that we need to encourage more economic development in the long run, we first need a plan to figure out how it will all fit in. Once we figure out where and how the town will grow, we can then start targeting money for the kind of development we want. I personally don’t want just any kind of business or industry in town. Can you imagine having an industry that cranks out smells that compete with cooking dog food?? The wrong industry would probably cause an exodus of people. Let’s solve the dog food problem first, then move on to something else.

    I would argue that we should encourage more small, sustainable businesses to come to Morinville. But once again, it all has to fit into a plan. How about developing a plan and targeting money to help KEEP businesses in town, rather than see them come, open for a year or two, then leave?

    Let’s sort out the small stuff first, then look at attracting bigger companies. Without a definite plan, I would not commit 40 cents, let alone $40,000.

  5. You’re right Joe – Where, oh where have they gone? We really don’t hear a lot from our Chamber of Commerce, do we? Not being a businessman, I tend to not even think of their existence. How about a little something from that group? One other thing: not ALL communities grow to much more.

    Brent: Thank you for yet another well-thought out comment. Isn’t our very expensive Municipal Sustainability Plan supposed to cover this aspect of things (or is that yet another document destined to sit on someone’s shelf)??

    C’mon Council and Administration… you folks are being paid WAY too much to be sitting on your collective butts and “directing the efforts” of yet another set of consultants!

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