Motion on 0% budget fails – motion on looking at potential collaboration on FCSS and Cultural Services with County passes.
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by Colin Smith
Morinville residents should not expect to see a 0% tax increase for 2023.
A motion put forward by Councillor Scott Richardson to have council direct administration to develop the 2023 draft budget on a 0% tax increase was defeated at its regular meeting Tuesday.
Voting in favour of the motion were Richards, Deputy Mayor Ray White and Councillor Stephen Dafoe. Mayor Simon Boersma and Councillors Jen Anheliger, Rebecca Balanko and Maurice St. Denis were opposed.
“If we don’t have a zero per cent increase, I think there is sticker shock to the community,” Richardson said in opening debate on his motion. “They’re upset that we are increasing taxes.”
“I think that by [administration] putting out a number before council has a chance to see or feel the budget is going to cause an issue and backlash in the community,” he said.
“I’m fearful about a zero,” said Balanko during the debate on the motion. “My concern is that we’re setting ourselves up for failure. With our residents facing a 9% [inflationary] cost increase, I’d love to do zero, but it’s just not feasible.”
Anheliger said that requiring the next version of the draft budget to be reworked to provide for a 0% increase would delay the process. The draft will be brought to council on October 25.
“I think it’s imperative that we get the budget draft as soon as possible,” she said. “Because the longer we wait, the less time we have for public consultation and community engagement.”
White expressed his support for the motion.
“We talked a lot about maintaining the line on taxes,” White said. “I don’t see it as impossible to get there.”
St. Denis said he really just wanted to get the ball rolling.
“I feel this motion undermines the policy direction council has set forth, and the work administration has done to build the draft budget,” he stated. “I know we’re going to find a number that makes sense for our residents and business community regardless.”
“This gives us the opportunity to say we’re not prepared to see any increase in expenditures this year,” Dafoe said in support of the motion. “Will we end up there? Probably not. But if we don’t at least make the effort, we won’t get there either or close to there.”
Boersma pointed out that budget discussions began in July.
“I think if we were looking at this, we should have started talking about it on July 12,” he said. “For administration to go back and bring something before Christmas, that’s not right.”
He also referred to Morinville’s ongoing budget deficit problem.
“We need to look at a long-term future for our community and what that means. We need to work our way out of this debt-ridden situation.”
“We could have had these conservations in July,” Richardson said in his closing remarks. “But this council ran on the premise of no increases. This notion that it’s just coming out now, it’s a bit shocking to me the administration wouldn’t know this council wanted to hold the line.
“We all ran on the fact that we were going to hold the line. Now is the time to make good on your campaign promises. “
A second motion by Richardson passed unanimously.
It directs administration to bring forward to Council information on a regional collaboration service delivery model that would see Family and Community Support Services and Culture Services administered in partnership with Sturgeon County.
“This was for us to find some information about partnering with some inter-collaborative services with the county and maybe improve some lumps of funding and maybe improve our services,” Richardson said.
“Anywhere we can look at some collaboration, be it Sturgeon County or Gibbons or whoever, it’s a good thing,” Dafoe said in support of Richardson’s motion.
“We can see that we’re getting less and less dollars from the province,” Richardson concluded. “Where that will end up, nobody knows.”