by Colin Smith
Morinville’s public officials have sharpened their pencils to get the numbers down on the Town’s 2020 Budget.
Given second reading by Town Council at its November 26 regular meeting, the Operating Budget passed following amendments resulting in more than $560,900 in cuts to an initially proposed $22,880,704 in expenditures.
The largest item was a cut of $215,000 from salaries/wages/benefits/training, which was accompanied by the elimination of staff bonuses to the tune of $21,500.
Removing the Corporate Planning and Intergovernmental Advisor position from the budget saved $84,400, along with $20,000 by dropping the Planning & Economic Development Green Manager position.
Morinville Public Library will not be receiving an additional $25,000 for funding needs but instead will be asked to dip into its reserve.
Public Works will see a $184,000 reduction in its departmental budget: $14,000 for building repair and maintenance; $40,000 for snow removal contractors; $60,000 for equipment rental; and $70,000 reduction for roads repair and maintenance.
Major changes were also adopted for the 2020-2039 Long Range Capital Plan, as part of which $3,764,058 expenditures were planned for the 2020 portion of the long-range plan.
Notable among them was the removal of $13,200,000 budgeted for the Regional Protective Services Building project.
Other cuts included the Park/Sports Field Development project, $100,000; Meadowview Ball Diamond Upgrade project, $20,000; and Morinville Leisure Centre – Cold Storage project, $20,000; Design for Wayfinding Master Plan project, $35,000; and Snow Machine/Cross-Country Grooming Equipment project, $15,000.
There was a $366,840 increase for the Playground Upgrades Project; $100,000 for the Morinville Leisure Centre Site Development project; and a $200,000 addition to the Asset Management Project.
Council first voted on amendments reflecting cuts and additions to the operating and capital budgets for 2020 recommended by the Administration and discussed at a Special Committee of the Whole meeting the previous evening.
Council members then went on to make their own additional budget cuts totalling more than $100,000 dollars.
These changes included a 4 per cent overall reduction to Council’s Budget by taking $14,000 out of council’s professional development and mileage budgets and cutting $3,000 for council telecommunications. Additional cuts included eliminating $61,500 for replacement of workout equipment along the trails and at Fish and Game Pond; removing $50,000 budgeted for the Grandin/Morinville Drive Curb Extension Pilot Project; and cutting $25,000 budgeted for the future demolition of the Midstream Society Building.
Following the passage of second reading Mayor Barry Turner commended Council members and Administrative staff for the work that has gone into the budget process.
“We did have a big job and we’re not quite there yet,” he said. “However, we’ve taken a good first pass at making some changes that I think will improve our overall situation and move the community forward.
“I appreciate the time and effort that everyone has put in up to this point and look forward to discussions.”
The initial Budget that went before Council called for a 3% residential property tax increase next year, along with a 12% rise for businesses.
The Budget is scheduled for third reading and possible passage at Council’s regular meeting on December 10.