Saturday , 25 September 2021

ID349 softens blow as Bonnyville passes interim budget with 2% tax increase

Bonnyville town council passed the 2021 interim budget last Tuesday with a projected 2 per cent tax increase.

The Town has been able to use $1.2 million from the $6.8 million in ID349 funds to help offset a larger projected tax increase that passed second reading in late November while also paying debts on the regional waterline.

The interim operating budget is $21.7 million.

The final budget and mill rate won’t be finalized until the spring, after council receives the property value assessments in Bonnyville and the inter-municipal collaborative framework is finished being negotiated between the town and M.D. of Bonnyville.

“We’re looking at the 2 per cent increase. But between now and final, we’re also going to be looking at our fees for services and things like that. So it’s not held at a 2 per cent, it very likely will go down as it has in past years,” said Mayor Gene Sobolewski on The Morning After.

“But right now, as an interim, it’s probably the best guess that we can take right now and be able to move forward.”

On the capital side, the town will spend the next few months before the official budget needs to be passed by the end of April 2021 to select the projects to do in the coming year.

The town had a lean 2020 year on the capital side with waiting on the 2019 ID349 funds.

Council deferred roughly $18 million of capital projects on Tuesday.

  • Defer a portion of the Annual Overlay program to 2022
  • Defer the Library Expansion Project to 2022
  • Defer a portion of the Pool Infrastructure Upgrades to 2022
  • Defer Decommissioning of the Water Treatment Plant to 2022
  • Defer Trail Upgrades to 2022
  • Defer South East Sanitary Forcemain Upgrade to 2022
  • Defer Pontiac Park Road Rehab to 2022
  • Defer 47 Avenue Infrastructure to 2022
  • Defer the Staging Area Washroom/Warm Up Shack to 2022
  • Defer the A&W Crosswalk to 2022
  • Defer Recycling Compound to 2022
  • Defer 46 Street Left Hand Turn Markings to 2022
  • Defer Notre Dame Parking Lot Lights & Cameras to 2022
  • Defer Northpoint Subdivision Engineering and Project to 2022
  • Defer the Landfill Scale House to 2022
  • Defer the Tennis Courts/Pickle Ball Courts to 2022
  • Defer the Fine Arts Feasibility Study to 2022

The ID349 on the capital side will be used to cover the town’s share of cost overruns on the regional waterline, roughly $5.5 million dollars.

“Essentially, we’re going to fund the 2021 projects from future and until our 2020 year end is complete,” said Sobolewski. “What we’re gonna do is whatever money is left out of that, let’s put some project to it.

“We have this sewer line to the hospital, those municipal sustainability initiatives, there was a sidewalk over by the 7-11 on east end, those things under the municipal sustainability initiative we’re going to get those accomplished, but we’ll see what happens in escalation.

“A lot of project costs that were estimated in 2020, have nonetheless escalated and the cost of cement, cost of metal, cost of steel…the cost of everything has gone up again. And we’ll just see where that all leads this.”

The town is also looking to establish a multi-year capital and financial plan, said CAO Bill Rogers.

“What we had told council is we’re going to come back to them again before April, with a multi-year financial plan. And we’re going to say, look, here’s how much money we’re going to be getting in the future from ID349. Here’s how much of an annual tax increase that we think you should do, if that’s our recommendation. Most municipalities do a couple of points per year just to keep up with inflation, or you’re getting behind the eight ball for your purchasing power.

“They also want us to take a look at other things that generate revenues, like user fees and cost of services, don’t necessarily raise them, but to take a look at them to make sure that they’re where they should be, in case we should raise them, as a possible way of generating extra revenue.

“Then the third thing that we have to do as part of that multi-year business package is makes recommendations about how ID349 monies should be spent to the future. Council’s already had some what-if discussions about that, and the options are all over the table, we could use some of that money to replenish reserves, we could use some of that money to help cure the annual operating budget deficits, if you get seven years worth of one or 2 per cent of your tax increases, eventually it should add up to enough so that you no longer have to run a deficit.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.