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Coalhurst council reviews budget changes for 2022

Posted on June 1, 2022 by Sunny South News

By Cal Braid
Sunny South News

The following are selected briefs from the Coalhurst council meeting on May 24.

Deputy Mayor Heather Caldwell chaired the meeting in place of Mayor Montina, who was in attendance remotely. All council members were in attendance. Kyle Bullock, director of Corporate Services for the Town reviewed key points about the budget for 2022 and projected where it can be expected to go in the next several years.

He drew attention to the RCMP contract that requires the Town to contribute to the policing services provided. An increase in the Town’s contributions is expected to level out in 2023 at the $150,000 mark. It’s a new cost for the town and is expected to have financial impacts in other areas. The RCMP increase is an expense that will be initially offset by reserves to mitigate the impact on taxpayers.

The Town received a subsidy from the provincial government that has now expired. The subsidy was described as an open, all-purpose subsidy/grant and the town used it as necessary during the pandemic and recovery.

The 2021-2022 budget numbers were reviewed, with Bullock pointing out that in developing a budget, municipalities are not allowed to budget for a deficit. The notable taxation changes from 2021 to 2022 were stated as:

An increase in franchise fee revenue. Two companies, Fortis and ATCO are subject to the fee.

Property tax mill rates will remain the same, but a tax increase will occur in direct proportion to an increase in property assessment values.

The Town’s administration budget included a $30,000 one-time expense that was paid for from reserves and will have no impact on taxes.

The fire department will see no substantial operational expenses.

Coun. Deborah Florence expressed reservations about adding a garbage truck to the Town’s existing fleet of two, citing that spending on recreation and culture initiatives might be more prudent if the existing vehicles could be maintained.

“It does come down to priorities. We do well in this town providing services. I think that as we move into the future, I would like to see more focus on some of these other things,” Florence said. “So, I see that when we own two trucks and want to purchase another one, yet there doesn’t seem to be a lot in the budget for recreational things, I would like to see that adjusted differently.”

Deputy Mayor Heather Caldwell was quick to acknowledge the point, saying, “I appreciate you bringing this up because I know that in our past election when we were all going door to door and speaking to our community, we heard that message loud and clear. So, we know that (it) has been under-represented in the past. And we have a responsibility to bring that forward.”

Caldwell also related that in her experience, maintenance costs on items (like trucks) owned by the Town often ended up exceeding replacement costs in the long term.

“Once we have our strategic planning session, (…) that’s when we’re going to start looking at budget allocations. As I’ve said before, we’ve been remarkable with our reserves, and we do have some surplus, and so I think that it wouldn’t be unreasonable for us to start looking at altering the budget at some future point.”

She added, “The challenge is, I’m not sure that we can take away from one service in order provide for another. We’re in a position where we really don’t need to be doing that at this point.”

Links to this meeting and past meeting minutes are at https://coalhurst.ca/government/town-council-minutes/

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