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Saturday , 26 September 2020

Bonnyville and Cold Lake’s financial future weighs heavily on Municipal Affairs CLAWR decision Monday

Bonnyville town council has passed an interim budget that may not resemble the real spend for 2020 until the Government of Alberta weighs with a crucial final decision on the millions of tax revenue dollars from the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (ID 349).

On Dec. 16, Bonnyville as well as the City of Cold Lake, M.D. of Bonnyville, Fishing Lake Metis Settlement, Elizabeth Metis Settlement and Glendon will meet the Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu and the future of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range money could be decided.

Bonnyville and Cold Lake each watch with keen interest as both have spent the 2019 ID 349 funds ($4 million and $16 million, respectively) and the provincial government – in the midst of changing the formula – has not released their portion causing some anxiety to each municipality.

These large financial unknowns make putting together a budget difficult, but each municipality must at least mock one up before Dec. 31 under the Municipal Government Act. Afterwards, they can make changes once financial assessments and school tax portions come in before April 31.

Regardless of Municipal Affairs’ decision, Mayor Gene Sobolewski said the Town will meet in January to make changes.

He said there is little appetite for a tax increase at the moment.

“The actual budget isn’t required to be passed until we know what our assessments and things like that are until the end of April,” said Sobolewski.

“Essentially, it’s hold the line, let’s see whether we can fix this thing from within. Depending on the news, we are anticipating to revisit it [budget] again in January.”

In trimming to get under roughly $500,000 of a deficit on the operating side, town council implemented an increase of 2.1 per cent for utilities and to transfer the outstanding money from reserves.

With over $5 million in a capital budget deficit, the Town deferred many of the potential infrastructure projects on the go into the new year.

City council waiting for verdict

Cold Lake city council deferred all but one budget-related decision (Northern Lights Library) until they know the ID 349 money situation.

With angst of how the ID 349 has been altered from $26 million to $16 million in 2017 and the uncertainty of its future, Cold Lake has held some budget meetings.

After the decision Monday, city council will meet Dec. 23 to likely pass an interim budget.

That means potential projects and community groups will be in the dark until then.

The City also cleaned up the books from previous years and have nixed the notion of a second field house for dance and gymnastics at the Energy Centre, a project pitched in 2016, due to financial concerns and moving forward with the second hockey arena.

The motion from council keeps $1 million as restricted surplus and wipes out the future plans of $6 million for the project.

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connect Media. 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.