Council gives 2012 budget first reading

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Councillors voted unanimously in favour of first reading of the 2012 Operational Budget and Capital Plan Tuesday night, dispensing with any discussion of the financial picture for next year other than a preamble by Mayor Lloyd Bertschi on how the Town was taking a different process this year.

Bertschi explained in previous years when the budget came before council the budget was balanced and done. This year, however, council voted on an unbalanced budget, one the community will have an opportunity to shape through a series of public open houses tentatively scheduled for Nov. 14 and 16.

Prior to releasing a minimalist budget document to media, the mayor said the draft budget shows a $50,000 deficit or ‘shortfall of funding position’. “Now through our budget open house we’re going to ask community to prioritize what they want,” Bertschi said, adding council is prepared should the open houses fail to draw a turnout. “If we hold our open houses and no one shows up, we are prepared to make those decisions.”

Bertschi said the draft budget would be posted on the Town’s website Wednesday.

Early projections show deficit

That document shows a projected 4 per cent increase to residential and non-residential properties and a 2 per cent increase in real assessments.

The Town is anticipating total revenues of $10,968,354 against anticipated operating expenditures of $10,660,447. This would leave an excess of funds in the amount of $307,907.

This surplus when combined with $793,552 in debenture payments leaves a deficit of $485,645.

On the operations side, the Town’s early draft is looking at $602,500 in operation projects, bringing the total deficit to $1,088,145. That negative number will be funded from operating reserves in the amount of $1,037,413, leaving an excess deficiency for 2012 of $50,732.

The proposed projects totalling $602,500 range from $5,000 for a Community Cultural Centre Arts Council to $125,000 for technology plan development and implementation. An additional $80,000 has been earmarked for an Economic Development Strategy and Implementation, something that had been discussed in the 2011 budget.

Wages top Town’s expenses

The Town of Morinville currently employs 60 full time employees. Salaries and wages for 2012 are proposed to come in at $5,210,115, an increase of approximately a half million over 2011 levels.

Capital projects to receive mixed funding

The Town is projecting approximately $6 million in capital projects, including the $3.2 million retrofit of Civic Plaza, now expected to be completed in March of 2012. These projects will be funded with $2.3 million in grant monies, $918,000 in capital reserves and $2.8 million in debentures.

Bertschi anticipates that numbers on both the operational and capital side of the budget will be shaped based on input from the community during the open houses and in response to the budget to be posted on the Town’s website. To increase turnout to the open houses, the town will be arranging bussing for seniors from the lodges and arranging babysitting for parents. “The next month or so the public hearings will be very important,” Bertschi said of the process.

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