by Tristan Turner with files from Ashley Janes
Council accepted the 2015 Operational Budget and Capital Plan Draft Report for information during the Oct. 28 Council meeting, a departure from the way Council has approached the budget in the past. Typically, Council would approve the first reading prior to taking the budget to the public for input ahead of second and third readings.
However, Council, who got their feet wet in 2014 with an interim budget in order to afford newly elected Councillors time to go through the required training, have opted to do their first conventional budget in an unconventional way.
Now that Administration’s draft budget has been received as information, Council will spend the three weeks, from Oct. 28 to Nov. 18, identifying priorities and service levels based on public input.
This means that the Council budget calendar includes a number of public sessions running from Nov. 3 to 5, including visits to the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Heritage Lodge and Morinville Community High School.
Information gathered during those meetings, as well as information received online and in person, will form the basis of the budget that Council will give a first reading to on Nov. 25. Council then has the option of passing a second reading that same night or passing a number of amendments prior to second reading.
Council and Administration will spend the week of Dec. 2 to 9 hosting additional public input sessions prior to the third reading of the budget, which could then take place Dec. 9.
Draft Operating Budget Shows 3.5 Percent Increase
The Draft Budget which was received as information projects that Town Revenues for 2015 will be $12,447,194, a 5.9 percent revenue increase from the $11,777,327 budgeted in 2014.
On the expenditures side, the Draft Budget presents $12,589,241 as the costs to run the Town in 2015, an increase of $430,856 (3.5 per cent) over the 12,158,385 budgeted for in 2104.
The Budget breaks operations down into six departments: Council and Office of the CAO (which includes human resources and other departments), Community Services (including the Morinville Community Cultural Centre), Corporate Operations, Financial Services, Planning & Development and Public Works.
Of the six departments, Council and CAO are targeted for a 4.2 per cent increase; Community Services, a 3.3 per cent increase; Financial Services, a 3.4 per cent increase; Planning and Development, an 8.7 per cent increase; and Public Works, a 5.5 per cent increase. Corporate Operations is the only department with an anticipated drop, and it is set to see a decrease of less than 1 per cent.
While these are increases over the amounts in the 2014 Budget, the actual spending forecasts for 2014 are significantly lower than the budgeted amounts, with a near difference of $1,010,847 moving from a budgeted $381,058 deficit to a $629,789 surplus.
When total anticipated revenues are compared with total anticipated expenditures, the Draft Budget shows a $142,047 deficit in operations prior to First Reading.
Capital Budget Sees Recreation Among Projects
The Town’s Draft Budget shows $15,880,000 being spent on Capital projects, $15,541,000 from grant funding, and $339,000 coming from capital reserves.
Topping the expenditures is an initial phase of the arena / rec complex project at $13,750,000. That undertaking is followed by $750,000 for affordable housing, $690,000 for road rehabilitation, $351,000 for fleet replacement, $110,000 to replace the community bus, $100,000 for park development, $98,000 for an equipment cold storage (an amount initially allocated in 2014), and $31,000 in building upgrades.
Residents will be able to provide input to the 2015 Budget process by attending the various public sessions or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information will be available on the Town’s website at www.morinville.ca.
Mayor Wants New Budget Process
Speaking about why Council received a Draft Budget as a presentation rather than the traditional first, second and third reading approach the Mayor said: “This year there [are] a couple of big projects that we’ve got going on. One of them is the Organizational Review, and I think what that is showing us is that we have a lot of work to do in refining our budget process,” the mayor said. “But with the timing of the Organizational Review – happening right now – it meant that we were behind in being able to get a new process started for 2014. What we decided to do was to look at the budget in a new way, making it a bit more of a public and more open, but we’re not able to have a lot of dollars to work with here because, as we saw tonight, we have a huge capital project – almost $14 Million so far into a rec centre. We want that to be the focus of what our 2014/15 Budget is.”
Mayor Holmes went on to say that Council wanted to start the budget process earlier next year (in August rather than October) to be able to get public suggestions in quicker.
Draft Budget Increases – Snap Shot
Increases to the budget were attributed to the following Town Departments in the Draft Budget developed by Administration:
- Council and the Office of the CAO increased as a result of inflation and the consolidation of Corporate Communications expenses.
- Community Services saw an increase in FCSS spending and Community Services operations.
- Corporate Operations saw a slight reduction, in part due to the consolidation of expenses in the Office of the CAO.
- Planning and Development saw an increase due to a new Tax Grant that now classifies newly developed properties as vacant for the first year, called ‘Vacant Non-Residential Improvement Tax Grants’, as well as costs associated with marketing and promoting the town.
- Public Works saw an increase as a result of expenses for maintaining the aging Arena, general repair and maintenance costs as well as the growth of new Parks & Open Spaces and the associated maintenance.
- Financial Services increases were associated with inflation.