The town of Morinville budget open house on Oct. 10 featured $2.7 million dollars of good news projected for 2023 but also foresees a tax hike in 2024.
The town had budgeted under half a million dollars ($441,000) to transfer into operating reserves in 2023, however is now forecast to transfer $2.7 million as a result of what amounts to a $2.3 million net gain. The increase is expected to result from lower expenditures.
Despite the huge savings in 2023, the 2024 budget is proposing to collect $1.5 million more in taxes than in 2023. All tax categories are anticipated to increase – residential, commercial, and industrial.
Several council members had varying views when informally questioned about the $2.3 million favorable margin in 2023 but still needing an additional $1.5 million in taxation than the previous year. Several council members defended the increase (pointing out the town infrastructure has deteriorated over the years and needs upgrades) while others pointed out the 2024 budget is still a work in progress and they would be proposing changes.
The tax hike shown in the proposed budget is the result of anticipating increases in the assessment of all categories of property—the budget did not address changes in the mill rate.
All residents and businesses in Morinville need to contact a council member to express your view, or be prepared to pay more in 2024. The town did a survey of public views regarding the 2024 budget months ago without disclosing that it projected having an extra $2.3 million in its back pocket left from 2023 operations. So the budget documentation claims that nearly 50% of the survey responses favor a nominal increase in taxes.
It’s in the DNA of bureaucracy to not return excess funds to taxpayers—and to always want more tax dollars. However ,council members are chosen by electors and you need to provide guidance. If you agree with the view that roads, sewers, sidewalks need a lot more funds put in reserve for repairs and construction—contact them and let them know. Similarly if you feel that a tax increase is not needed, that there’s sufficient room in the budget to absorb increases in costs without hitting the taxpayers for a raise.
I suggest council set the tax rate based on the net taxes collected in 2023. The town will still collect more revenue in 2024 (due to new residential, commercial and industrial projects). Then next year prepare the 2025 budget showing what is actually needed to be put into operating reserves—don’t do it by stealth through inflating expense figures and then having a would-be surplus transferred to operating reserves at the end of the year.
Call, email, or text your favorite council member (or all of them) now. The town says it wants input from electors, so there’s no need to be aggressive in your language — but there is a need to express your view to achieve action that you support.