By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A leaner 2013 budget passed second reading Nov. 27. After more than two hours of discussion and debate that shaved $300,000 off the $14.6 million budget, Council voted unanimously for second reading. Council will have at least two weeks to ponder further cuts before giving the document third and final reading.
Council gave first reading to the 2013 budget Oct. 23. As laid down at first reading Budget 2013 consisted 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.
Tuesday night’s trimming of the fat is unlikely to lower the proposed tax increase; however, it will certainly keep a little more money in reserves. As originally proposed, Budget 2013 would have depleted the Town’s operational reserves to just $8,210. The Nov. 27 discussions sliced $170,000 off operational spending, moves that will see operational reserves sitting at approximately $178,000 if no further cuts are made.
Some cuts make the cut – others don’t
A total of $300,000 was trimmed from the laundry list of projects proposed for next year. Of that amount, $130,00 was cut from capital spending, $170,000 from operational spending.
Councillor David Pattison argued for combining a proposed arena replacement study with a multi-use recreational facility study, a combination that shaved $60,000 in spending. The councillor also convinced his Council colleagues to shave $5,000 off a proposed $35,000 in spending for new trees in Morinville. Pattison also proposed and had approved shaving $20,000 off a proposed $40,000 for an MSI stimulus project and a Community Start Up project.
Councillor Lisa Holmes was able to get Council approval on shaving $80,000 off the budget by removing a plan to do additional park plan studies next year, preferring Council to work with the park projects already in place. Holmes was also able to shave another $5,000 by removing an Action Plan project from the list of operational projects.
Another $100,000 was saved when Councillor Sheldon Fingler got his colleagues support to pull plans to purchase an outdoor electronic sign from the list of proposed projects. Mayor Paul Krauskopf trimmed another $30,000 with the suggestion Council remove a proposed south entrance sign in light of the delays to the Cardiff Road interchange.
Councillor Gordon Boddez offered up the proposed Economic Development Officer position as a way to save another $100,000. Council shot down his motion because it was felt the position was needed to increase the residential / commercial tax split many residents have been arguing for over the past several years.
Deputy Mayor Nicole Boutestein put forward two potential cuts: reducing $20,000 for trees off the proposed $140,000 tennis court budget, and removing the inclusion of Belle Park in the trail expansion budget, the latter saving $31,500. Both motions were defeated.
Councillor David Pattison asked to add $30,000 back into the budget to pay for the burial of power lines in the older part of town. When told $30,000 would not be sufficient to do any portion of the $300,000 needed to do the complete job, Pattison raised the anti to $100,000. The budget addition was defeated.
Further trimming likely
Council could revisit the knife drawer over the next 14 days. Budget 2013 will likely come back to Council for third and final reading at the Dec. 11 meeting of Council.