Council passes 2022 interim budget

by Colin Smith

The Town of Morinville will be operating on an interim budget from January 1 until potentially the end of the first quarter of 2022.

Town Council adopted the 2022 interim operating budget at its regular meeting yesterday.

The interim budget covers basic operating expenses for the first part of the year, while Council and the administration work on developing full 2022 operating and capital budgets.

It allows for expenditures of 20% of those set out in the proposed operating budget brought to Council by the administration on December 6, with a number of initiatives considered less essential removed.

At the meeting, Council voted for the development of the interim budget rather than beginning consideration of the proposed 2022 Operating Budget and 2022-2026 Capital Plan.

That budget called for a 5% municipal residential tax increase in 2022 and a 14% non-residential tax increase, with an increase to 1:1.2 ratio of residential to non-residential.

A 0.81% special tax on all assessable property to raise $1.08 million to support road and sidewalk replacement was also proposed.

The average homeowner, with a property valued at $331,629, would have seen a $126 increase in taxes and a $269 special tax payment for a combined increase of $395 – a jump of about 15% not including the school requisition.

Combined tax and utility-supported expenses for the proposed 2022 operating budget were $23,719,391.

The interim budget produced by the administration included expenditures at 25% of the proposed 2022 operating budget, rather than 2021, to reflect organizational changes made last year.

Proposed operating initiatives removed in the budget as less essential include an engineering standards update, $120,000, community services software, $65,000, IT strategy, $30,000, public engagement platform and contracted services, $22,500 and banners, $20,000.

At the same time, an additional $72,000 was added to the interim budget for winter road maintenance and $38,400 for snow clearing, for total planned expenses of $6,034,449, along with $5,000 for public engagement about the budget.

Revenues are not considered in the interim budget as most municipal revenues derive from taxes, which are paid later in the year. Operations continue primarily on the basis of revenues collected in the previous year. Capital expenditures are also not considered in an interim budget.

Immediately after the presentation of the interim budget, Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe moved that it be based on a factor of 20% of the proposed 2022 operating budget rather than 25%.

The amendment was unanimously passed by Council and the interim budget approved, with an opposed vote by Councillor Jenn Anheliger.

Mayor Simon Boersma then proposed three other measures, which were also approved by unanimously by Council.

These are that an additional financial orientation session be held for councillors, that potential Town of Morinville service level changes is on the agenda for an upcoming Council Committee of the Whole meeting and that the administration develops a public engagement plan for the budget that would include potential changes in service levels.

The 2022 operating and capital budget must be approved by March 31, 2022, to allow enough time for the development of the 2022 tax rate bylaw and distribution of tax notices.

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