By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
“Budgets are definitely more difficult this year,” said Town of Coaldale’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Kyle Beauchamp during the first budget meeting for the upcoming year.
Beauchamp said the financial challenges are impacting municipalities everywhere. “Coaldale isn’t special in this regard for budget numbers; I have had several municipalities reach out to me asking what our budget number is looking at and this is the first year this has ever happened. Many municipalities are looking at municipal increases between four and six per cent to maintain service levels as well.”
Beauchamp said, “in order to maintain existing service levels, based in large part on a number of cost increases related to insurance, fuel, wages, policing, etc, it is estimated that council will need to increase municipal taxes by 3.87 per cent for 2023.” He added council could alternatively increase utility franchise fees for power and natural gas to generate additional revenue to offset the increase in municipal taxes.
He clarified, “A tax rate increase does not equal the change in property tax mill rate,” adding with the high inflation values, “it is likely that the current property tax mill rate would decrease.” The current projected deficit for the operations budget sits at $360k.
“This isn’t a Coaldale-only program — this is an economy problem that we are facing with inflationary charges,” he said. `
According to Beauchamp, there is no clear indication when these inflationary pressures will ease up, but said administration is considering several financial strategies to mitigate “surprises” in future years.
Administration has proposed the possibility of “building a buffer into the budget” to reduce some of the uncertain inflationary pressures, which includes a proposed a $50,000 increase to operating budgets for 2024 and 2025.
“With inflation not slowing down, we are presenting (this) to council so there are no surprises in future years,” he said.
Budget deliberations will recommence on Nov. 22, and Nov. 30, and Dec. 5, and will provide council with the opportunity to explore all budget strategies and options before voting to approve the proposed capital and operations budgets in December.