by Colin Smith
Morinville property owners will see a 1% tax increase next year, following approval of the 2021 Operating Budget and 2021-2046 Capital Plan at a special Town Council meeting Wednesday.
That’s a reduction from the 1.5 per cent increase called for in the proposed budget that first came before Council at the end of October.
As a result, the owner of an average residential home valued at $332,696 can expect to see an increase of $2.08 per month or $25 annually, rather than $37, for a property tax bill of about $2,524 for 2021.
Hiring Freeze Motion Defeated
Councillor Balanko moved an amendment to institute an Administration hiring freeze lasting until June that would have cut out one planned new full-time position. That motion had been put forward at Coucil’s Dec. 8 meeting, prompting third reading to be referred to a special meeting, following a report coming to Committee of the Whole.
Balanko’s amendment was defeated 5-2 with Balanko and Councillor Stephen Dafoe supporting the motion.
Split Mill Rate Frozen For A Year
Adopting a budget amendment proposed by Councillor Stephen Dafoe, Council unanimously supported maintaining the split between residential and non-residential mill rates at 1:1.1 rather than increasing it to 1:1.15 as called for in the Town of Morinville’s Long Term Financial Plan.
For an average commercial property valued at $858,697, there would be a tax increase of $70.96 next year. The increase would be $117.93 for an industrial property valued at $1,426,999.
0% Increase Defeated In Amendment
Another budget amendment proposed by Councillor Dafoe would have seen a 0% property tax increase for Morinville.
“I’m asking you to hold the line and give our businesses and our residents a 0% tax increase this year,” he told Council.
However Council members including Mayor Barry Turner and Councillor Lawrence Giffen expressed concern about the impact the resulting loss of revenue, about $103,000, would have on Morinville’s financial position.
Council opted instead for a 1% increase by a vote of four to three, with Mayor Turner, Deputy Mayor Sarah Hall and Councillors Giffen and Nicole Boutestein if favour, and Councillors Dafoe, Balanko and Scott Richardson opposed.
Utility costs will go up by $2.37 per month for the average Morinville homeowner in 2021.
The average household will pay $1,617.13 in utility costs next year, $134.76 per month, up from $1,588.71, or $132.39 monthly, in 2020.
There will be a monthly increase of $3.02 for water rates and 53 cents for sanitary sewer, while stormwater rates will not change. However the cost of solid waste management will drop by $1.18 per month.
Throughout the process, Councillors weighed the balance of paring expenditures while maintaining service levels and moving ahead with projects they deemed important.
Among the expenditure-reducing measures in the 2021 Operating Budget were elimination of the cost of living (COLA) increase, $161,000, a proposed resident satisfaction survey, $25,000, and a project to update Morinville’s engineering standards, $75,000, the biannual compensation review, $20,000, and a cut of $30,000 to Council’s own budget.
Expenditures in the approved Operating Budget total just over $22.8 million, about half of which is for wages and salaries.
It includes about $400,000 for operating initiatives and projects. These include tree planting and replacement, pedestrian crossing review, occupational health and safety software, Council Chambers technology update, Protective Services electronic ticketing, utility rate review – model update, and a community safety plan report. Also included is financial support for the Morinville Community Library and Morinville Historical Society.”
The Capital Plan for 2021 will see close to $5.5 in spending for 23 new investments in assets of which, $1,598,085 is to be financed from Capital Reserves and $3,915,262 through Capital Grants, including $1.1M from the new Municipal Stimulus Program.
Spending for work in progress capital projects carried forward into 2021 will be about $400,000.
Total expenditures for Morinville’s 25-year capital plan, 2021-2046, are projected to be $174,034,963.
Small surplus when budgets consolidated
The approved consolidated budget reflects a surplus of $225,320, which is comprised of a tax supported deficit of $2.1M and utility supported surplus $2.3M. Cost reductions of $921,600 were approved by Council for the 2021 Operating Budget.
“This has been an incredibly difficult year, and I am proud of our Council and Administration of their stewardship of our Community. We have continued to move the Town of Morinville forward and deliver on our 2021 budget, all while implementing several Pandemic measures,’ said Mayor Barry Turner in a Friday press release. “The passing of the budget will continue to advance the needs of our residents and businesses, with modest tax and utility increases.”