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Budget considerations under microscope: Van Rijn

Posted on December 13, 2023 by Sunny South News

By Heather Cameron
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On December 7, 2023, the Town of Coaldale met for Budget Deliberations and following Deputy CAO Kyle Beauchamp’s resharing of details of the Road Rehab Proposal, Coaldale Mayor Jack Van Rijn stepped in to remind Council that the meeting was merely a budget deliberation so that the Administration team has something work with when the budget is set and even that can be changed before the mill rate is set. Van Rijn also said he was looking forward to the funding coming in, but it was important that Administration provided scenarios: one where the funding comes and one where it doesn’t. 

Councillor Abrey then asked if another proposal could be put forward. Abrey acknowledged that his proposal would not have the money in 2025, but he suggested budgeting $212,000 instead of $425,000 for the Road Rehab Program. Abrey said if Council and Administration start decreasing amounts, it’s money they’re going to get back and if they do that with each of the proposal item amounts, that is money that could be put towards operational funding. Abrey emphasized that Council really needs to start looking at cutting back as much as they can and then as things start progressing with the Town, they could then start looking at increases. 

Beauchamp told Council that if they wanted to decrease funding to the proposals, Administration could definitely do that, but further direction from Council is needed.  

Van Rijn said that when everyone ran for Council, one of the biggest discussions out there was about the conditions of the local roadways and sidewalks and so last year, a million dollars was budgeted. So much positive feedback came from having that work done, Van Rijn said, and it needs to be done and there is an opportunity to put money away for 2025, as it works better for tendering out projects.  Van Rijn also said, however, that everyone has their own opinion on the matter. 

Councillor Chapman wanted to confirm if basic road repairs would continue even if the Road Rehab Program were paused and Van Rijn said yes. Then, Van Rijn again asked if everyone in attendance was in favor of the Road Rehab Program hitting the pause button for 2024. Councillor Beekman interjected and made it clear that he was only voting based on the likelihood that the Town gets the 7030 funding, and that the entire discussion is based on the Town getting 30 percent back. Councillor Pickering concurred. Eventually, the proposal was approved.

Next, Council discussed the Arena Expansion Reserve Proposal, which would cost $100,000 in 2024; $200,000 in 2025, and $300,000 in 2026, and Van Rijn said that came from discussions the Town has had with the Waves and Blades committee about a future second sheet of ice. Councillor Beekman, Councillor Abrey, and Councillor Pickering opposed approving the proposal and Councillor Reis said that the proposal needs to be put on pause for now. Councillor Beekman said that the proposal should be brought back again next year and see where the Town is standing at financially. Councillor Chapman asked if the project was pending if the Town wasn’t able to get the 70/30 split cost share with the R.C.M.P. and the Road Rehab proposal was dropped or if any of the other proposals were dropped, could they be planned for later or are they conditional. Beauchamp said all proposals are conditional. With that information, Chapman spoke in favor of the Area Expansion Reserve proposal. It was then moved to further discussion.

Van Rijn then moved on to the Town Shop Replacement Reserve proposal, which he said would involve putting $50,000 away in 2024 and doing that for the next three years for a total of $150,00 000. That proposal was approved with no objections.

Van Rijn then moved on to the Pathway Reserve proposal, which would involve putting away $25,000 in 2024, 2025, and 2026. Councillor Abrey commented that the more meters of path that the town has, the more it’s going to cost for maintenance. Abrey also wanted to know if there is going to be another tractor for pushing snow and another staff member for clearing it; if Council has looked at the safety concerns connected to people walking on the pathways in the dark and in the wintertime, and if the money is going to be used to expand or simply improve the pathways. Beauchamp said that it’s essentially allocating funds to a placeholder that Council would have future discretion as to how it’s allocated in the future and that the Town and Administration is looking at Coaldale as a growing Community and that there’s likelihood of future needs of pathways and when these requests do come up, they want to have the funds available. Ultimately, the Pathway Reserve Proposal was approved.

Next, Council looked at the R.C.M.P. Full-Time position that, Van Rijn said, is going to be based on whether or not the Town gets the 70/30 split funding. The proposal, Van Rijn said, was brought to Council back in 2022, more specifically when Council was doing the budget deliberations for 2023 and Council hit the pause button on the position. However, Van Rijn said that he knows that it is quite important that Council fulfill the request by Coaldale’s Detachment Commander, but it is based on whether the Town gets the necessary funding. Councillor Pickering asked if this officer that Council is talking about adding hat going to be affected with by Council bringing in sheriffs. Van Rijn stated that those discussions haven’t happened yet, and the additional officer is the only request at the moment. Councillor Chapman commented that the detachment has nine members now and the position that the staff sergeant’s asking for is more specialized. That said, Chapman said he was not in favor in increasing the force and wondered if the staff sergeant could reallocate resources to fit the specialized position he is requesting. Chief Administrative Officer Kalen Hastings spoke up and said that the answers would best come from the staff sergeant. Councillor Abrey asked CAO Hastings if the staff sergeant if he can have some clarity on what those sheriff positions are that the province has put into the city. Van Rijn interjected and firmly read the line item from the Town’s Chief Financial Officer that stated should the Town not be successful in their pursuit of the 7/30 cost sharing agreement with the R.C.MP., the above represented budget adjustments that would be proposed. In other words, Van Rijn said, if Council wants to make any of the proposals happen, that money has to come out of reserves. Beauchamp stated that the funds can only come out of the reserves for so long until the reserves are depleted, so it’s not a sustainable long-term solution.

Van Rijn then brought forward the cemetery reserve proposal and it was approved.

Then, Van Rijn asked if anyone objected to taking money out of reserves for the Road Rehab Program and Councillor Abrey objected to it. Abrey added that if the split funding doesn’t come, he would want to revisit dropping the funding attached the proposal and it would take Council longer to get to the achieved goal, but it would still put them moving forward. Van Rijn posed the question again and there were no additional objections, so that was approved.

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