Council approves first reading of 2019 budget

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by Colin Smith

Morinville residential property owners will see their taxes go up three per cent in 2019 if the operating budget given first reading by Town Council on October 23 is passed.

Meanwhile, taxes for the average non-residential property owner will go up 13.3 per cent as the Town adopts a non-residential split mill rate of 1:1.1, to climb over a five -year period to 1:1.5.

“This ratio will place Morinville more in line with other urban communities in the Edmonton Metropolitan region and result in a much more sustainable source of property tax revenue going forward,” stated Mayor Barry Turner.

Turner described 2019 as a challenging budget year, with operational costs of the Morinville Community Recreation Facility becoming a reality.

“The net impact of these costs is projected to be approximately $265,000 in 2019, which equates to about 2.8 per cent overall impact on taxes. Capital cost to begin to repay debentures is being covered entirely by provincial and federal grant dollars, as planned by Council since the inception of the project.”

Next year the average homeowner will pay $2,154.48 in property taxes, up $62.75 over 2018, while taxes for the average non-residential property owner will go up $278.20, for a total of $2,369.93.

Education taxes and the Homeland Housing requisition are up two per cent.

The proposed consolidated operating budget shows revenues of $21 .5 million, which is an increase of almost eight per cent over last year’s budget. The revenue rise results from the municipal tax increase and the introduction of the split non-residential mill rate, taking into account projected 2.5 per cent growth of Morinville, recreation facility revenues, and an increase in utility levy revenue.

“A key challenge for Council for 2019 and beyond is going to be reigning in an operating deficit projected at just under $1.4 million dollars for 2019,” Turner said.

“This will require careful attention to long-term reserve management, grant utilization and a successful Morinville Community Recreation Facility Sponsorship Program to ensure we are well positions to maintain service levels while keeping the impact on taxes as low as possible. We have a great Council and Administrative team, and I am confident we can address this challenge successfully.”

Higher expenses associated with the community recreation facility, this reflects investment in new initiatives including a Fire Services Master Plan, a Long Range Financial Plan and a Social Support Needs Assessment, as well as increased employment costs.

The budget document states that the increased operating expenses have been partially offset by a $407,000 reduction in Town of Morinville general expenses.

“Our administrative team has already sharpened their pencils and reduced expenses in a number of areas while seeking to maintain current service levels, user fees and charges,” said Turner.
First reading is the initial step of the three-reading budget approval process. This will provide residents and stakeholders with time to give meaningful feedback to Council as budget deliberations take place.

Council will hold a budget open house on October 30, 2018, with administrative presentations beginning at 1 p.m., public presentations at 4 p.m. and the open house set to start at 7 pm.
Views can also be expressed through the Town’s Citizen Budget Survey at http://morinville.citizenbudget.com from October 25 to November 7. Comments and questions can also be emailed to budget@morinville.ca. Budget-related documents can be found at https://www.morinville.ca/budget-2019 .

“Our budget open house and Citizen Budget Survey give the opportunity for direct input and feedback from residents, which Council brings forward over the course of second and third readings,” said the Mayor. “This is a practice not currently used by many municipalities and I encourage all residents to use the opportunity to let Council know what they think.”

Final results of the public consultations will be presented to Council at its November 20 committee of the whole meeting. Second reading is scheduled to take place during the November 13 regular meeting of Council, and third reading could occur at its November 27 meeting.

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