City council passes 2018 operating, capital budgets

Hair Fusion 728 x 126 Dec 8

Cold Lake City Council unanimously passed the 2018 Operating and Capital Budgets with just over $53.5 million in total expenditures, forecasting an average municipal tax increase of about 4.8 per cent.

The 2018 operating budget was passed at about $51.4 million, including a transfer to the Capital Budget of about $9.2 million. Inclusive of the transfer, the Capital Budget sits at just over $11.5 million.

“We balanced our city’s priorities of dealing with the pressures of continued growth and an infrastructure deficit, while also providing for the livability of the city,” Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland said. “At the same time, we had to do our best to limit the harm that the government’s new Cold Lake Air Weapons Range arrangement inflicted by cutting $10 million annually. It’s unfortunate that inaccurate information persists surrounding how this new arrangement was made. But we arrived at a well-rounded budget after being blindsided by a massive loss with no meaningful consultation or warning of the magnitude of the impacts. That is a testament to this council’s hard work from orientation straight through the budget process.”

The original Cold Lake Air Weapons Range Agreement, signed by the City of Cold Lake and the Government of Alberta, was brokered to ensure the sustainability of the City of Cold Lake. The agreement stated that: “The parties agree to maintain open and collaborative communications to achieve the principles and objectives setout herein. The parties agree to collaborate on public statements relating to the changes in the municipal boundaries and the revenue sharing agreements….This memorandum may be amended through mutual written agreement of the parties.”

“I don’t think anybody would think it’s reasonable to consider one meeting with the Mayor and one meeting with the CAO an exhaustive consultation process,” Copeland said. “The fact is, we live in the only growing urban centre in the Lakeland and we needed to pass a budget that deals with the challenges a young and growing urban centre faces. We did that as best as we could.”

The city’s Operating Budget provides a commitment to public safety and economic development initiatives. It also maintains existing service levels while raising some recreation fees and committing to a review of other user fees. Council committed to the Community Capital Project Grant Program and was able to assist several community groups, although to a lesser degree than requested. Utility rates will increase to reflect the cost of service delivery. Elected officials will also forego a planned cost of living increase to their salaries.

Highlights include:

  • Council declining cost of living increase
  • Police dog service: Approved in 2017 and will be initiated in 2018
  • Sponsorship for the Cold Lake Air Show
  • Opening of the Energy Centre Phase III
  • Closing of the North Arena for half of the year; future status to be reviewed in 2018
  • Enhanced road maintenance and asphalt repairs
  • Continuation of current levels of service
  • Continuation of the free transit system, with a review and preparation for a possible fee introduction in 2018
  • Tourism advertising campaign
  • Continuation of the Sidewalk Repair Initiative
  • Continued Meals on Wheels Program
  • Continuation of the Community Capital Project Grant Program
  • Increase in sewer fees from 50% of water bill to 70%, over two years
  • Increase in solid waste fees and increases to the tipping fees at the transfer station
  • Increase in recreation fees of 5-10% at sports fields and arenas, subject to a review
  • Increase in slip fees at the Cold Lake Marina by 5%
  • Review of some recreation facilities’ fee schedules, including the Cold Lake Golf and Winter Club and the Cold Lake Marina.
  • Review of handi-bus fees with the intent of moving towards a flat fee of about $1.75 per ride, regardless of destination within the City of Cold Lake, which would effectively lower the cost for users who travel across the city.

“Some recreation user fees will be increased, and the sewer rates will increase over the next two years to more accurately reflect the cost of providing these services,” Copeland said. “Overall, the Operating Budget delivers the same service levels while giving our RCMP an important new resource. It allows for economic development and provides what support we can to community groups.”

The 2018 Capital Budget was passed at a total of about $11.25 million and includes the following projects:

  • Environmental/Utility Infrastructure Improvements $2,425,000
  • Roadway Infrastructure Improvements $2,148,140
  • Fleet and Equipment Infrastructure $1,405,000
  • IST Infrastructure $16,000
  • Airport Infrastructure $2,000,000
  • Facilities Infrastructure $2,022,000
  • Recreation Infrastructure $1,500,000

“Although it was a challenge, and it falls far short of our community’s needs, our capital budget provides funding for important regional economic development projects such as the CATSA screened commercial air service initiative,” Copeland said. “This budget also gets a strong start on infrastructure needs such as a new public works centre and a new RCMP Detachment building, and will take a proactive approach to road maintenance that will save our city money in the long term.”

The new RCMP building and a mountain bike park were funded to 50 per cent of the project cost, with the intent of finding other sources of funding to complete the projects.

A list of capital projects and more information on the 2018 Operating and Capital Budgets can be found at www.coldlake.com.

 

The city will be reviewing all options in regards to the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range Agreement while it also turns its attention to the inter-municipal collaboration framework (ICF) with the Municipal District of Bonnyville, as mandated by the Government of Alberta.