Friday , 9 June 2023

St. Paul approves 2022 Budget with mill rate increase

St. Paul town council approved the 2022 operating and capital budgets and a mill rate increase that will see a slight uptick in taxes. 

At the April 25th regular meeting, council agreed to a 0.951 mill rate increase for residential properties and non-residential increase of 0.856 in order to balance the operating budget. 

A key chunk of the operating budget is a debenture payment of $909,093 that was taken out to fund the new wastewater treatment plant. 

The mill rate increase is anticipated to help offset these costs and result in roughly $500,000 of taxes. 

On The Morning After, Mayor Maureen Miller said that it’d been a complicated budget process but extremely beneficial to understand the true financial position of St. Paul. 

She gave credit to the town staff and fellow council members for the hard work they’ve put into the document. 

“We had to increase the mill rate slightly for residential and non-residential. But we did take a balance of what we could,” said Miller. “So I think we came to a position where we could swallow it. We’re ratepayers as well. And that’s sometimes when I don’t know whether the public sees that we’re making decisions on behalf of the public. But we’re also the public receiving that same information. 

“Where our challenge is, though, with the budget, even though we’ve been talking about it for quite some time, we had to receive a debenture or a loan, basically from the government for a portion of our wastewater management, which has been under process for two years.

“But we took over the rest of the portion that was not granted from both the federal and provincial government; it was about $4 million. So as with any home, you purchase a piece of property or whatever you’re purchasing. Now that debenture needs to be paid. So that’s where really, we were able to really manage the budget, but it was that we were picking up that extra debenture,” she said. 

“Hopefully, over the course of the next few years, and maybe with assessments changing and hopefully industry now considering moving around, that we will be able to balance that off.”

The capital budget will all be funded by MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) and the Canada Community Building Fund, which will be the new name for the Federal Gas Tax. 

Some of the projects include the Aquatic Center HVAC rehabilitation project, 2022 Curb and Gutter/Sidewalk program, 48th Street Water and Sewer Main Replacement, Resurfacing of 52nd Avenue & 48th Street, and Water Meters. 

Also included are two properties purchased to help with wetland issues and potential work on Highway 881, street lights, Lagasse Playground Replacement, 53 Avenue Paving between 44th & 46th Street, a pool slide, and smaller public works projects. 

“The community has wanted lights… on the north side of town; there is a good straight stretch there that can get dark at night. We’re actually lighting the walking path up there. As we started COVID, we thought, what can we do for free outside? How do we get people engaged in outdoor activities,” said Miller. 

“Another priority that has come forward is a new slide for the pool. So we had other issues within the pool. Each department gets a budget, so they budgeted to replace tubes within the hot tub. And then we had the roof that needed to be done. And then we had a heat and cooling system. So now, the shiny shows up,” she said. 

“The other thing that we did do when you talked about balancing over the years, every area of infrastructure we’re doing, we’re making sure that the underground pipes, whatever is all there, is up to standard and beyond if necessary. And then the overlay. So we’ve got a few areas in town that you’re still driving on gravel.”

After these budgets were passed, council gave the first reading to the Tax Rate bylaw, with further readings to come at a future meeting. 

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. 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.