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Coaldale council finalize budget recommendations

Posted on December 13, 2023 by Sunny South News

By Heather Cameron
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On December 7, 2023, Town of Coaldale Council met for 2024 budget deliberations and at the conclusion of deliberations, Council looked at what the budget looked like as presented. From there, Kyle Beauchamp, Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Coaldale, stated that the formal budget would be presented for approval for Council on Monday, December 11, 2023.

Beauchamp said that the Town is making the Gem of the West Museum funding somewhat contingent on the Gem of the West’s future presentation in the fall. Beauchamp said that the contingent items on the R.C.M.P. are also present, but the arena expansion is being removed from consideration along with the two items that needed to be adjusted from the budget as proposed. 

Jack Van Rijn, Mayor of the Town of Coaldale, then stated that the R.C.M.P. discussion would be saved for Monday, December 11, 2023.  

Van Rijn also requested a vote on the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Fire Department presentation given by Clayton Rutberg, Director of Protection Services, Fire Chief, and Director of Emergency Management for the Town of Coaldale. Van Rijn commented that Fire Services picked out a shopping list that they require to the amount of $90,000 and said that Council is not expected to get into the weeds about what kind of equipment Fire Services has; it’s based on the amount of the ask. There were no objections, so the PPE proposal for $90,000 was approved with Councillor Abrey voting against it. That money, Van Rijn said, will come out of the operational surplus and there will be no tax impact.

Beauchamp also brought forth a funding budget proposal to Council from Administration. He stated that under the MGA, Councils are required to pass a three-year operating plan so the tax rates that Council are looking for 2025 and 2026 they are not set in stone and they’re going to be revisited, but they’re essentially a placeholder for what’s to come in the future. What Administration proposed, Beauchamp said, to kind of annualize funding was additional funding in 2024 that would be offset and used to reduce the tax increase for 2025 and 2026. Council, Beauchamp said, can reduce this $100,000 for 2024 and the only thing that it will do is it will essentially reduce your tax increase by 1 percent this year, but it will increase it by half a percent each year for 2025 and 2026. 

Councillor Bill Chapman then reported that FCSS Barons Eureka Warner approved their interim budget and stated there will be no increase in requisition for 2024.

Beauchamp also reported that with the exclusion of the arena expansion from the budget, it would leave an average tax increate for 2024 of 3.9 percent with an increase of 2.62 percent in 25 and an increase of 2.68 percent in 2026. Beauchamp added that Administration had proposed some increases to the franchise fees as well on the basis, but Beauchamp said those fees are more tied to user pay system the more you use the more you do pay for, as that is a way to mitigate the tax increase somewhat but that is ultimately subject to Council’s decision. 

Councillor Lisa Reis then spoke up and asked Beauchamp for details regarding the Vacant Land Tax that Council discussed in the past. Beauchamp stated that Administration did run the calculation related to that two years ago and if it was fully enacted and adopted by Council, it would result in that at that time additional revenues of approximately $65,000. However, Beauchamp said, that was at two years ago so it’s possible the amounts have gone up or possible they have gone down since then, so should Council want to enact that or enable that tax this year that could reduce some of the funding increases. Reis also inquired about why the tax was turned down last time and Beauchamp explained that it was reviewed and the majority of the properties on that were developers who had lots that were ready for sale, but at that time Council didn’t want to add a double tax for those and essentially punish those lot owners who were not selling at the time. Van Rijn then encouraged Beauchamp to come to the next meeting with the information about the Vacant Law Tax staff report and Beauchamp agreed.

Ultimately, Councillor Reis made the motion that Council receive the budget deliberations report as information and the motion was carried.

Van Rijn then moved on to the Fees and Rates Bylaw and explained that they are two bylaws for the operation of the town that Council is looking to have finalized for the beginning of the new year. Beauchamp stated that the bylaws were being presented before Council for first reading and that second and third readings were originally slated to be discussed at the Council Meeting on December 11, 2023. The Fees and Rates bylaw, Beauchamp said, essentially covers what the Town charges for all services except Utilities in one standard bylaw. Beauchamp them showed Council slides of information about the old bylaws and what changes would come with the new bylaw. The majority of the number have changed, Beauchamp said, as many of them haven’t changed for a number of years and haven’t been reviewed since 2019. Council did have questions about adjusting more of the rates, but Beauchamp said to do so would be a process and he ultimately suggested bringing more information to the Council meeting on Monday or even passing the bylaw and reexamine it at the next Committee of the Whole meeting. Councillor Chapman then sponsored first reading of the bylaw. The bylaw passed first reading and Council determined to proceed with the second and third readings, with Councillor Pickering making a motion for second reading and Councillor Chapman sponsoring and making a motion for third and final reading. Both readings were passed.

Van Rijn then moved on to the Utility Rate bylaw. Beauchamp explained about the rates being reflective of option two of the rates that were discussed with council’s part of the budget. That, Beauchamp said was an average of a 3.9 percent increase for the average household for utility rates for 2024. Beauchamp then showed slides to Council to show how Administration adjusted the budget for the commercial side for the water and the sanitary collection in which the flat fees are tied to the size of the water meter that is at the property. That, Beauchamp said, is tied to the fact that larger the water meter, the larger impact on the infrastructure structure. This is something that is not uncommon, Beauchamp said, and is often used in other municipalities of greater size. For the commercial side, Beauchamp said, Administration, tied this to the size of the lot so greater than one acre or less than one acre, again the larger the size the likely larger hard surface, which increases the storm water run off as well other further increases of the hourly rates for labor. That, Beauchamp said, does go up year-over-year, as does the bulk water, but we have also proposed a five percent increase consistent with the water usage rate as well as an increase to the water meters based on the size the price increases that Administration is seeing for those. With no questions after the fact, Councillor Jason Sailer then made a motion to approve first reading of the bylaw as presented and the motion was carried. The second and third readings were carried over to the regular Council meeting on Monday, December 11, 2023 and the meeting was adjourned.

 

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