by Jennifer Lavallee
Morinville News Correspondent
Full video of LAVII debate follows article
Morinville councillors trimmed and fattened the Town’s budget in different key areas last week when they debated the costs and merit behind monuments, trails, festivals, and more.
Second reading of the 2017 Operational Budget—which included a 1% property tax increase—and the 2017–2037 Long Range Capital Plan was successfully passed on November 8.
The Morinville Festival Society (MFS) was one of the first community groups who’s budget request was debated and, subsequently, reduced. A pair of motions made by Councillors Stephen Dafoe and Rob Ladouceur were unanimously passed which lowered MFS’ budget allocation down to $18,500, the same amount the group received last year. Ladouceur stressed it was time for the Society to get serious about becoming self-sustaining and planning a smaller, less costly, festival.
Council also made a $52,000 cut to the Budget through the removal of the controversial LAV III Monument project. Coun. Nicole Boutestein made the motion saying, “In principal, it’s a great tribute to the miliItary but, I have to be honest, the lack of commitment from the [monument’s planning] committee, the lack of fundraising…when push comes to shove it might end up costing the municipality the entire thing (over $90,000). I would say we request our money back too.” That sentiment was shared by most of Council, some of whom noted there was a missing link in the project: buy-in from the Town’s military community. To date, Morinville had paid an initial $7,500 deposit for the project.
Community grants were cut by $10,000; however, Dafoe, who made the motion, said the program needs to be revamped and the grant selection criteria reviewed. “While there’s some important work being done there, it also seems like some entitlement with the same groups coming every year…and we shouldn’t be in the entitlement business.” If the Budget passes, this will leave $10,000 for community grants.
Later, Boutestein made a motion to provide the Morinville Food Bank, a group that benefits from FCSS Community Grants, with additional support (above the $2,500 it can apply for each year); she suggested adding a second $2,500 line item specifically for the non-profit group, citing the high need for its service in the community. However, Dafoe successfully made a motion to amend that figure up to $10,000.
Council did not alter the Morinville Public Library’s budget request as of second reading. Deputy Mayor Brennan FitzGerald attempted to go beyond MPL’s ask, making a motion to award it an additional $45,000 to raise what he called sad wages paid to some very hard working people. That motion was defeated with only FitzGerald and Dafoe in favour.
The Musée Morinville Museum’s budget request was also not changed during second reading.
Morinville’s entrance sign was up for debate again for the second year in a row. During the 2016 Budget deliberations, a decision was made to erect a new sign off Highway 2 and Cardiff Road, replacing the old entrance sign that had been there for years. This year, councillors resumed that conversation, saying this time the new sign looks too small. The decision to forgo an additional $60,000 expense to replace the new sign just narrowly passed by a vote of four to three.
One of the big winners of the night was Morinville’s trail system, a resource Coun. Barry Turner described as “one the Town’s most used [amenities].” Council approved the cost to install solar lights around the Fish and Game Pond and on the trail leading up to it (an addition made by Dafoe) at the cost of $166,000. The Mayor, Lisa Holmes, later added another $40,000 for trail development in new parks.
Neither Council or the Administration discussed at any point the costs associated with the forthcoming arena and Rec Centre during the meeting.
Only one member of the public attended (a portion of) the Budget debate.
If significant changes are going to be made by Council to the Budget, second reading is generally when that happens; amendments to line items and figure amounts are proposed, and councillors are given a chance to ask clarifying questions on specific elements of the Budget at this time.
Additional changes, however, can still be made during third reading if required.
The Budget was first brought to council on Oct. 25 for first reading. An Open House, and an on-line survey, in addition to one-on-one meetings and a dedicated Budget 2017 email address, were some of the methods used to collect feedback from residents on how to spend budget dollars.
Third reading of Morinville’s 2017 Operational Budget and the 2017–2037 Long Range Capital Plan is scheduled to occur at the next Council Meeting on Nov. 22.