by Colin Smith
The Town of Morinville’s 2024 budget is coming into shape, with tax revenue increases likely for next year and the following four years.
In 2024, owners of an average home (valued at $350,000) would see their tax bill rise by $196.22, or $16.35 per month, with larger annual increases to follow.
The proportion of municipal taxes paid by businesses would increase following a rise in the residential to non-residential tax ratio from the current 1:1.2 to 1:1.33.
The measures were agreed to by council at its committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 17, continuing a process that began in May with a 2024 budget update, followed by a September 22 and 23 special meeting at a proposed operating budget, long-term capital plan and long-term operational plan were brought to council by administration.
The focus of this year’s budget would be on capital investment, with the proposed operating budget aimed at maintaining service at current levels, with increased spending only if required by circumstances.
A major increase in capital spending is seen as necessary to make up for historic underspending on municipal infrastructure, continue to provide current service levels, mitigate risk and liability and comply with provincial requirements.
It’s estimated that in 2023, the annual depreciation of Morinville’s capital assets amounted to $7 million, while there was only $3 million in capital addition.
The long-term capital plan put forward covers the years 2024 to 2033.
Capital spending over the five years would average $8.1 million annually, funded by increased tax revenue through a long-term operational plan.
In terms of raising the required revenue, council was offered the alternative of raising taxes sharply in 2024 (by $627.01 annually for the average residence) and then by lesser amounts in the next four years, but opted for the phased-in approach.
At the meeting council also made decisions on whether to go ahead with initiatives that would have budgetary implications.
It decided to keep Morinville’s community bus in the budget, along with extended hours for the Moriniville Leisure Centre.
Council members decided not to go ahead with a pilot project for off-highway vehicle use on Morinville streets, and also dropped the community sports memorabilia project for the coming year. Snow clearing levels will remain at 12 centimetres rather than dropping to 10,
During the meeting Councillor Ray White made a motion seeking a report from administration “with any cost savings or staff reorganization that would bring the town in line with similar sized municipalities.”
“If people could see that we are doing our part as an organization to make us more efficient they might be able to get behind a tax increase a little better,” White said. “Coupled with the fact that looking at the comparisons, it just makes no sense to me to see why we have so many people in some positions as we do.”
The motion was defeated after councillor members heard from Financial Services Manager Travis Nosko that Morinville’s staffing levels are slightly lower than the average among comparable municipalities.
Deputy Mayor Scott Richardson voted in favour of the motion along with Whyte. Opposed were Mayor Simon Boersma, Councillor Jen Anheliger and Councillor Maurice St. Denis. Councillor Rebecca Balanko was not present. Councillor Stephen Dafoe, who was out of town, was participating electronically but lost his connection before the vote.
Administration will bring a revised draft of the budget before council at its November 14 regular meeting.