by Colin Smith
Town Council has put in place a hiring freeze as it seeks to get a handle on Morinville’s 2022 budget and limit taxes.
Hiring is frozen for all jobs listed on the careers page of the Town of Morinville website, with the exception of an Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) position.
Positions listed as open are facilities foreman, full-time permanent; general manager, community and infrastructure, full-time permanent; senior planner, full-time permanent; and tax and utility clerk, part-time temporary.
Screening is being done for a full-time permanent position of corporate safety and risk advisor.
Interviewing is underway for the temporary summer positions of youth programmer, part-time, and youth program leader, casual. These positions were specifically included in the hiring freeze.
The freeze will last until the 2022 budget is approved or March 31, whichever comes first.
The measure was proposed by Councillor Ray White.
“We are in the middle of drafting a budget,” said White. “I think whoever is going to be replacing the outgoing CAO should be allowed the flexibility to do what they need to do with those positions if there are some advantages from a monetary standpoint as far as the budget goes.”
White noted that would be easier to deal with if the positions were vacant.
Initially, the proposed hiring freeze also included the corporate safety and risk advisor position, but it was excluded in an amendment to the motion proposed by Mayor Simon Boersma, who expressed concern about possible liabilities incurred by the town in leaving the position unfilled for a lengthy period of time.
White made the motion, which passed unanimously, following discussions of municipal finances that took place in a committee of the whole session at council’s regular meeting Tuesday, as well as at a meeting the previous day.
Boersma put forward a motion to have the administration prepare a report on the development of a study of different operating models for the Morinville Community Cultural Centre and Morinville Leisure Centre, to be conducted by consultants.
He said there needs to be a look at the operations of the two facilities.
“This is one of the largest budget items in terms of some of the losses we have.”
The motion passed unanimously.
Council also passed a motion by Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe directing the administration to return to council on January 25 with some variable budget scenarios based on discussion and input during Monday’s budget meeting and Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole.
At the previous budget meeting, the administration had put forward a number of options for cutting expenditures, with potential cost savings totalling $439,340. Each $100,000 is equivalent to about a 1% tax increase.
Morinville is currently operating on an interim budget passed in December after council rejected the 2022 budget proposed by the administration.
That budget would have resulted in a 5% municipal residential tax increase and a 14% non-residential tax increase, with an increase to 1:1.2 ratio of residential to non-residential. In addition a 0.81% special tax on all assessable property would be levied to raise $108 million for road and sidewalk replacement.
The addition of the special tax would make the total increase approximately 15% for residential properties and 24% for commercial properties.
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.