The County of St. Paul anticipates a small surplus of $18,698 in 2021 according to the interim operating and capital budget passed at the Dec. 16 Public Works Meeting.
The County expects to bring in $34.2 million in operating and capital revenues from taxes and grants, and use $545,000 from reserves as well as $1.45 million from the unrestricted surplus in 2021.
Debt payments will cost $636,379.
Operations will cost approximately $26.8 million, and capital expenditures are budgeted at $8.4 million.
According to County of St. Paul CAO Sheila Kitz, the biggest ticket capital project for this year is the rebuild of Township Road 582, which is expected to cost $2.25 million in 2021. Kitz said there has already been some funds spent on engineering and planning for the project.
“We’re using our Municipal Stimulus Program grant funding for the paving of it and we’re going to partner up [with the Town of St. Paul] on the paving portion of it and submit one tender process,” said Kitz, noting that the partnership should result in some savings to both communities for the project.
The Town of St. Paul is rebuilding 57 Street in 2021. That road connects with Township Road 582.
The county also has some equipment purchases planned for the year, but according to Kitz has “really scaled back capital equipment and road construction projects.”
“In 2021, we’ll be looking at every service level, every piece of our business, to make sure that we can get as skinny as possible,” said Kitz.
She said the reason for the serious review is because in addition to the roughly $1.5 million they had to cut from their 2021 budget as a result of expected reductions to tax revenue from the assessment model review process undertaken by the province in 2020, the county has also been told to expect a reduction in MSI [Municipal Sustainability Initiative] funding from the province.
MSI funding covers a small portion of their operating costs (roughly $100,000) and the bulk goes in to the capital budget for roads and equipment. In 2020, the County of St. Paul received $2.2 million of MSI funding for capital projects.
“We haven’t heard anything from the province specifically about what any reduction would be,” said Kitz, noting they had received a letter from Municipal Affairs in December advising them to spend their money wisely.
She said the county also had a meeting with the Rural Municipalities Association in late November or early December and were advised to expect a 25 per cent reduction in MSI funding, which would be approximately $500,000.
“The other thing that came out with that compromise on the Assessment Model Review, is that oil and gas companies will have a three year tax holiday on any new investment that they make in the province. So if there is any new pipelines or wells drilled in the next three years, there will be no taxation. So there will be no growth for municipalities either,” said Kitz.
Kitz said the reason for the interim budget is so the county can operate through the first quarter of the year while they are waiting for assessment values and grants from the province to be finalized.
“We get all those final numbers at the end of February, then we crunch our final budget numbers during March and then we approve the final budget at the at the council meeting in April,” said Kitz.
She said their fiscal year-end is Dec. 31, and so the first months of the year they are going through that process and completing their audit which also impacts the next year’s budget numbers if there was a surplus or a deficit.