Second reading of budget deferred to next meeting

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – After two open houses Nov. 6 and 8 and a public forum Nov. 13 that drew seven presenters with plenty of questions, Council voted unanimously to defer second reading until the Nov. 27 meeting of Council.

Council gave first reading to the 2013 budget Oct. 23. As laid down at first reading Budget 2013 consists of an $11 million operating budget combined with a proposed $3.6 million in capital projects. At that time, Chief Financial Officer Andy Isbister said ratepayers would be looking at no more than a 2 per cent increase in the municipal portion of their 2013 tax bills even if Council were to pass the budget exactly as presented at first reading. That tax increase, coupled with a 2 per cent increase in real assessment growth, will see an additional $246,184 going into Town of Morinville coffers next year.

The budget presented to Council for second reading Nov. 13 was the same budget as presented Oct. 23. Councillor Lisa Holmes moved for sending it back to Administration for review based on the input received during the Nov. 6 and 8 open houses and the Nov. 13 public forum.

Residents support various initiatives

The open houses held in Council Chambers Nov. 6 and 8 allowed the roughly 30 residents who came out over the two sessions an opportunity to use play money to put their money where their mouth was on just where Council should direct tax monies next year.

Residents were given 15 operational dollars and 15 capital project dollars and asked to place them in the envelopes of the projects they deemed worthy.

On the operational side residents were equally supportive of hiring an Economic Development Officer, creating a conceptual design for an eventual arena replacement, and simply putting money back into reserves. Roughly 14 per cent of available spending dollars were put into those projects. Creating a strategy for a multi-use recreation facility and supporting the Town’s tree plan garnered an additional 10 per cent of the tax dollars each. On the low scale of funding priorities was an action plan implementation project, Municipal Sustainability Plan stimulus and Community Development Start Up funding.

Reserves dominated the public thoughts on capital spending. Participants put more than 12 per cent of the available play money back into reserves. Another 11 per cent was earmarked for park development and approximately 10 per cent was set aside for trail enhancement and trail expansion each. Low on the public priorities were refurbishing existing tennis courts, buying a ride-on mower, and purchasing a sign for the south entrance to town.

Council will have an opportunity to vote on second reading at the Nov. 27 meeting or Council.

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