Bonnyville talks budget post-CLAWR Agreement

The Town of Bonnyville Council met Tuesday for their regular Council meeting, spending some time discussing the 2018 budget. In the budget talks was the impact of the ID-349 Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) agreement.

The Town of Bonnyville will receive over $4 million from the CLAWR tax revenue, money they are told can be budgeted in 2018. Mayor of Bonnyville, Gene Sobolewski says with a lot of capital projects on the table, the Town is facing a deficit of $3.4 million.

“As presented [on Tuesday], without the additions of a dog park or sidewalks, we were in deficit approximately $3.4 million.” A deficit in early budget discussions is not A-typical says the mayor; however, it does mean that Council is tasked with some very tough decisions in attempting to balance the budget. “There’s some work that Council is needing to do to bring [the budget] into harmony. It’s not to say those projects won’t get done, it’s a matter of wants versus needs.” Council is the body that’s going to make those decisions, explains the mayor, “I’ve challenged Council to over the next couple weeks to come up with ways to fund. Personally, I don’t have any problem with any project that comes along; it’s just how are you going to fund it?”

Some major projects on the capital budget include: (dollar amounts, where given, approximate)

  • Cold Lake to Bonnyville Regional Waterline $5.5 million
  • Town waterlines $2 million
  • Repairs to swimming pool $1 million
  • Equipment purchases
  • Trail Improvements
  • Park Improvements
  • Back Alley Improvements $3 million

The operating budget is at a deficit, as well, explains the mayor, “we’re looking at $420,000.” Part of the money was $133,000 in support of a regional bid for the 2020 Alberta Summer Games. The bid was to be put forward by the City of Cold Lake, with the MD of Bonnyville and the Town of Bonnyville assisting in hosting the event and sharing in the cost. However, since the meeting on Tuesday, the City of Cold Lake had had to pull due to economic reasons.

Even with those funds out of the budget, the Town is still facing a deficit in the operating budget. “The seven people around the table will have to explain what is a want and what is [a need].”

A petition from residents is circulating for the Town to create a dog park, the mayor explains the issues, “in the case of the dog park, I don’t anticipate it would cost that much money. It’s an issue of the existing property owners.” As he explains the Town would have to find an area for the park and have approval from the existing property owners. “Ultimately, Council will make the decision.”

“Somebody may have an idea and approaches a Councillor. It’ll be on the shoulder of the Council to see whether that is feasible. Again, talking to the CAO and seeing if it is possible. Then going to Council (meeting) and presenting the idea.”

The Town is also facing lower property assessment, which in turn without raising the mill rate would be less tax revenue coming into the Town. Mayor Sobolewski explains, “your actual tax bill is your assessment multiplied by the mill rate, then you add on the school taxes. Last year, some people saw increases in their taxes. That had nothing to do with the Town; because we held the mill rate.” As the mayor explains property owners saw an increase due to the Province increasing the school tax, “we have to collect that by law.” In their preliminary discussion, Council is looking at raising the mill rate by two percent. “It amounts to about $10,” explains the mayor, “one percent represents approximately $60,000.”

The Town is hosting a budget open house on Tuesday, December 5th, at 6:00 pm, at town hall. This is a great opportunity for the public to come in and learn more about where the Town will be spending money in 2018, and beyond. Mayor Sobolewski suggests that the public comes in doing their homework, “talk with our administrative staff, particularly Mark Power. He’ll be able to shed light on Council’s priorities and where a project falls.”