The Town of Bonnyville finalized and passed a “good news, bad news” 2020 budget at Tuesday’s council meeting that will see taxes for residents drop, but the Town will do very little capital work this year and had to pull from reserves to balance the budget.
Town staff project homeowner’s overall taxes will be reduced by just over seven per cent because of the province slashing education taxes.
This combined with a drop in assessment values will likely see the mill rate decreased at the first town council meeting in May.
However, The Town dipped into their “rainy day” fund, general reserves, and used $454,000 to balance this year’s budget.
“On the positive side, the education taxes were reduced by the province. Number one from an overpayment last year and an overall reduction this year,” said Mayor Gene Sobolewski on The Morning After.
“So residents should see somewhere in the order of about 7.1-7.2 per cent of a reduction in their total tax bill. And businesses would be about 3.5 per cent, something like that.”
“The town, though, did hold and maintain the zero percent [tax] increase. So our budget basically reflects a zero percent, we dipped into our rainy day fund, but there’s not much left.
“If we have another one of these things next year, we don’t know what we’re going to need to do. In the capital, we’re still going to need to borrow the $6 million on that side. And again, as we’ve been talking about for a number of weeks now, a lot of projects deferred to 2021 because we just can’t afford to undertake them.”
The Town is borrowing that money to pay for their share of the regional waterline.
ID349 payments of over $4 million in the original agreement with the province was going to be used by the Town to pay for the waterline, but Municipal Affairs has not decided on a new agreement for 2020 yet and has withheld the money from 2019 as well.
Beyond the waterline, there is going to be little capital investment made by the Town this year.
Around $2.2 million from the M.D. of Bonnyville is going toward airport upgrades and some road patchwork will be done from the Town’s priority list.
A lean interim budget became much leaner after COVID-19 for many municipalities in Alberta–and nationwide–which has lead to major centres like Edmonton asking the federal government for financial help.
“Right now, before this COVID hit in our area, we had an instantaneous layoff about 800 people,” said Sobolewski when asked about whether municipalities could be involved in financial support or stimulus grants.
“So when we take a look at our statistics relative to the city of Edmonton relative to others, everybody’s going to be looking for funds. It’s going to be the lobby, and we’re lobbying that the government be a little more fair in terms of how the funds are rolled out, so that we’re able to undertake projects.”
The Town’s operating budget is $21.7 million and the capital budget is $13.7 million.