Council passes 2015 Budget, residents looking at 3% increase

by Tristan Turner

Council unanimously passed 3rd reading of the 2015 Operational Budget and Capital Plan at a special meeting Dec. 15.

Council approved $95,700 in cuts and new budgeted revenue put forward by administration following motions by Councillor Ladouceur and Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe during Second Reading to find a total of $75,000 in the budget, partially to make room for $25,000 directed towards implementing the recent Organizational Review.

Additionally, in a 6-1 vote, Council approved $15,000 in savings by deferring the hiring of an additional Community Peace Officer until the end of the first quarter of 2015. Councillor Brennan Fitzgerald was the only one to vote against the motion.

Council also voted in the majority on cutting $3,000 in professional development fees, $1,000 in contracted services, and $3000 in advertising for economic development. Councillor Rob Ladouceur opposed the first two, and Deputy Mayor Dafoe abstained from the last due to a potential pecuniary interest.

Council approves arena fixes and cuts equipment storage in Capital Plan

Council passed the Capital Plan with less debate than the Operational Budget, only making two changes.

Council unanimously approved a $150,000 project to extend the life of the Ray McDonald Sports Center to at least March of 2015. CAO Debbie Oyarzun believes that it is “likely” the life of the Arena may extend past March of next year, but an update about whether or not these repairs will be sufficient to have the Arena open for longer will be given closer to the current planned end of life for the facility.

Council also voted to remove a $98,000 for an equipment cold storage for Public Works that Administration said would protect town-owned equipment. Councillor Putnam put forward the amendment saying he believed with the arena project fast approaching, Council should be mindful of spending on other projects. Councillors Fitzgerald and Ladouceur voted against the motion.

Operational budget almost back in black

After the $77,210 increase in revenue and $105,700 in cuts, council is at a deficit in the Operational Budget of $6,137, compared to $166,910 before Second Reading. As well, this – along with a reduction from $225,000 to $134,200 to capital reserves – takes the Capital Reserve out of the red to $371,995.

After Council made its way through a number of operational cuts, Mayor Lisa Holmes made a motion for a 1 per cent tax rate increase on top of the 2 per cent increase budgeted at First and Second Reading. Holmes said she believed it was necessary to set aside operational reserves to pay for operating the new arena / recreation facility if additional staff is required. As well, Holmes hoped to only slightly increase rates this year as to prevent a larger tax hike after the new facility is built. “I would much rather that we slowly increase it [tax rates] rather than all at once,” said Holmes.

Administration said this tax increase would roughly increase the average resident’s annual tax bill by approximately $20, and would generate an additional $77,210 in revenue for the Town.

Councillor Barry Turner was the only Councillor to oppose the tax increase, arguing “it might be a little bit premature to make that move [increase taxes] at this point in time.” Turner said he would rather wait until the end of the consultation process for the new recreation facility to see what residents want before increasing tax rates.

Operational cuts approved by council – Snapshot

Below is a detailing of these changes that total in $105,700 in new money for the town.

Office of the CAO ($4,000):

-Reduction of $3,000 in Recruitment Expenses – HR. Administration believes they can find other avenues to advertise recruitment
-Reduction of $1,000 in Contract Services – HR.

Financial Services ($27,200):

-Increase in other revenue generated by $2,400.
-Reduction of $3,000 in Professional Development.
-Reduction of $3,800 in Contract Services.
-Reduction of $18,000 in Office Supplies.

Planning and Development ($20,500):

-Reduction in Advertising – Economic Development $3000.
-Reduction of Tour de l’Alberta Expenses by $17,500.

Public Works ($28,000):

-Reduction of $28,000 in arena maintenance expenditures. This is as a result of the new capital funding of $150,000 for repairs to the Ray McDonald Sports Center, as inspections of the facility will now be completed under the capital project.

Community Services ($8,000):

-Reduction of $3,000 in part time wages at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre.
-Reduction of $3,000 in Contract Services, Community Services Administration.
-Reduction of $2,000 for Contracted Services at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre.

Corporate Operations ($18,000):

-Increase of $3,000 in Bylaw Revenue.
-Reduction of $15,000 in salary for the new Bylaw Officer by delaying hiring for three months. Originally proposed by administration to be 1 month, but after a successful motion passed by Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe, it was delayed to 3 months.

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