Council passes first reading of 2015 Budget

by Tristan Turner

Roughly a month after Council accepted the 2015 Operational Budget and Capital Plan Draft Report for information, they unanimously passed First Reading of an amended document that contained some Council direction on the Draft Budget Report.

Council heard public feedback on the budget from Oct. 28 to Nov. 18 through social media, visiting community groups and holding a series of coffee conversations at local coffee shops and restaurants.

Information gathered during those meetings, as well as information received online and in person, influenced the budget Council gave a first reading to Nov. 25.

Council and Administration will spend the week of Dec. 2 to 9 hosting additional public input sessions prior to the third reading of the budget, which could then take place Dec. 9. An open house is scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 2 in Council Chambers.

Draft Operating Budget shows 3.66 per cent increase

The Operating Budget and Capital Plan that passed first reading projects that Town revenues for 2015 will be $12,447,194, a 5.9 percent revenue increase from the $11,777,327 budgeted in 2014.

On the spending side, the budget presents $12,620,241 in costs to run the Town in 2015, an increase of $461,856 (3.66 per cent) over the $12,158,385 listed in the 2014 budget.

The 2015 budget breaks operations down into six departments: Council and Office of the CAO (which includes human resources and other departments), Community Services (including the Morinville Community Cultural Centre), Corporate Operations, Financial Services, Planning & Development, and Public Works.

Of the six departments, Council and CAO are targeted for a 4.96 per cent increase; Community Services, a 4.1 per cent increase; Financial Services, a 3.4 per cent increase; Planning and Development, an 8.7 per cent increase; and Public Works, a 5.5 per cent increase. Corporate Operations is the only department with an anticipated drop, and it is set to see a decrease of less than 1 per cent.

The only expenditure changes since the draft budget was accepted for information in October was a $10,000 increase to the Office of the CAO and a $21,000 increase to Community Services. The increase to the office of the CAO was directly related to the council decision to increase public relations spending, and the increase to Community Services was to cover new funding for additional “family events and [a] French heritage event” according to CAO Debbie Oyarzun

While these are increases over the amounts in the 2014 budget, the actual spending forecasts for 2014 are significantly lower than the budgeted amounts, with a near difference of $1,010,847 moving from a budgeted $381,058 deficit to a $629,789 surplus.

When total expected revenues are compared with total anticipated expenditures, the budget shows a $173,047 deficit in operations after First Reading.

Capital budget sees recreation among projects

The Town’s budget also shows $15,930,000 being spent on Capital projects, with $15,541,000 from grant funding and $389,000 coming from capital reserves.

Topping the expenditures is an initial phase of the ‘Arena/Recreation Complex’ at $13,750,000. That undertaking is followed by $750,000 for affordable housing, $690,000 for road rehabilitation, $351,000 for fleet replacement, $110,000 to replace the community bus, $100,000 for park development, $98,000 for an equipment cold storage (an amount initially allocated in 2014), $50,000 for a Town entrance/welcome sign and $31,000 in building upgrades.

Since the draft budget the only change has been the addition of the final Town welcome sign, which will be paid for entirely from capital reserves.

Residents will be able to provide input on the 2015 budget by attending the Dec. 2 open house or emailing budget2015@morinville.ca. Additional information will be available on the Town’s website at www.morinville.ca.

Budget Increases – Snap Shot

Increases to the budget were attributed to the following Town departments in the draft budget developed by Administration:

1/ Council and the Office of the CAO increased as a result of inflation and the consolidation of Corporate Communications expenses.

2/ Community Services saw an increase in FCSS spending and Community Services operations.

3/ Corporate Operations saw a slight reduction, in part due to the consolidation of expenses in the CAO’s Office.

4/ Planning and Development saw an increase due to the new ‘Vacant Non-Residential Improvement Tax Grant’ that now classifies newly developed properties as vacant for the first year and includes costs associated with marketing and promoting the town.

5/ Public Works saw an increase as a result of expenses for maintaining the aging Arena, general repair and maintenance costs as well as the growth of new Parks & Open Spaces and the associated maintenance.

6/ Financial Services increases were associated with inflation.

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