Bonnyville Town Council went through the initial reading of the operating and capital budgets for the town. Mayor of Bonnyville, Gene Sobolewski explains the first reading is really a “wish list” and is always high.
“If the initial budget were adopted it would require a ten percent residential and commercial tax hike,” something Council would not consider, says the Mayor with a laugh, “that was unacceptable by Council.” Coming in high is really typical, and requires Council to take the “wish list” into budget deliberations and discuss individual items, each item’s necessity, and make the tough decisions as to which expenses stay in the budget and which are tabled for a following year, or removed completely.
The questioned was posed, what happens if the Town went for a zero tax increase? Mayor Sobolewski explains, “all our labour, fuel, and gas costs, they’re all increasing. So if we held at zero, that’s when you would have to look at reduction to services.” The Town runs a skinny budget, as it is, says the mayor, and if there was any area they could hold back on it, may road construction and improvements, “what we’re looking at doing is perhaps not doing as much overlay next year.”
Mayor Sobolewski says the Town is aiming for a two percent increase in taxes.
Some of the major items in the budget include:
- Continuation of 51st avenue construction
- Change rooms and parking lot at the splash park
- Lights on Highway 28/50th avenue
- Airport improvements
- Town equipment
A new Town Hall is also still in the budget, a project Mayor Sobolewski has been advocating for and hopes will remain in the budget after deliberations, “the new town hall has been in the plan since when I first became mayor. It was one of the first things we talked about.” Although, it’s still in the budget, the mayor worries it’ll be pushed back, “it’s looking like that’ll be expensed in 2017 or 2018. ”
Another big-ticket item is the upgrades to the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority’s radio systems. The upgrades were tabled last year, and the department was hoping to have approval for the expense in the 2016 Budget. Mayor Sobolewski explains there is hope that the province will be able to cover some of the costs, “there was an announcement in the provincial budget about radios and communications. I’ve spoken to Brian [McEvoy, BRFA Chief] regarding that and they’re looking into it.” The mayor explains he tasked BRFA to get all the details on the provincial budget and if there’s funding available there, before the Town will include the expense in the Town’s budget.
Everybody is going to be under scrutiny – Mayor Gene Sobolewski
The Town will hold an Open House in early December to hear from the residents. This is something that’s done every year, explains Mayor Sobolewski, “by that time we’ll have the budget more finalized. We encourage the public to attend and this is where we go to the public and explain the budget and hear from them what they’d like to see in the budget.”
The Open Houses have traditionally been poorly attended, says the mayor, “last year I think three people attended. Still, we’re holding it again and hopefully, we’ll get more members of the public out.”
The date of the Open House will be announced mid-November.