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Coaldale council discuss PPE expenses in budget deliberations

Posted on December 13, 2023 by Sunny South News

By Heather Cameron
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On December 7, 2024, the Town of Coaldale met for Budget Deliberations.

Following a presentation from Clayton Rutberg, Director of Protection Services, Fire Chief, and Director of Emergency Management for the Town of Coaldale, about Personal Protective Equipment for the Coaldale Fire Department, Mayor Jack Van Rijn stated that there had been a presentation about the Photo Radar and Bylaw Operator and those expenses had a price tag of $35,000.

When Mayor Van Rijn asked if there were any objections to that proposal being added to the budget, Councilor Abrey commented that he was concerned about putting more money into programs when the Town is seeing provincial cuts already on major thoroughfares throughout the province. That said, Abrey recommended that the Town exercise caution as they start building the budgets they are building. Mayor Van Rijn responded by saying that the numbers are projections on today, not on what the Town is seeing happening through the province. The mayor then asked if there were any objections to the photo radar item being added to the budget and there was none, so it was approved to be added to the budget. 

Van Rijn then asked for approval for the Alberta Advantage Immigration, which was presented by Cameron Mills, with a cost of $9,000, and it was received. 

Van Rijn then sought approval for the Community Services Proposal that came with a cost of $42,000 that will be paid for with a tax increase and it was approved.

Van Rijn then sought approval for the Utility Operator proposal for 2025 that a presentation was held for at the previous Council meeting. The cost associated with the proposal, Van Rijn said, is $52,000 and will be addressed through a utilities increase. That proposal was approved.

Then, Van Rijn sought approval for the Museum Annual Funding Increase, which had a cost of $25,000 that would be funded by a tax increase. Councillor Abrey responded by saying that he believed if Council was going to be looking at giving any type of non-profit organization within the municipality extra funding, that that organization owes Council the decency of providing audited financial statements so Council can see what the organization needs the money for; is it to have a surplus in their account? With that concern in mind, Abrey stated he would be against this particular proposal until more information became available. Councillor Bill Chapman then spoke up and asked, for clarity’s sake, if the Museum’s annual funding increase of $25,000 is an increase from something else and who is the money going to: the Museum Society or is it going to the actual building operations or Building Maintenance or whatever we want to define it as. CAO Beauchamp stated that this $25,000 does represent an increase from the annual funding that that has already been approved so it would go up from $30,000 to $55,000 and it would go to the Gem of the West largely for their operations and staffing. This information, Beauchamp said, was part of the presentation that the Gem of the West gave to Council earlier this year. Beauchamp stated that there was no decision made on their request, as there was no formal ask at that that time, but the museum board did present to council with their future vision and their financial needs to essentially maintain their staffing resources at that time. Mayor Van Rijn agreed with Councillor Chapman about getting more information regarding the proposal and Councillor Pickering said that he can ensure that a financial statement is provided for Council to look at that will show exactly why the Museum wants it. Van Rijn asked that it be brought back for discussion before Council sets the rate in March and April.

Kalen Hastings, the Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Coaldale, then presented the Resourcing Proposal, explaining that the resourcing proposal, which came with a cost of $111,483, represents the net cost impact of some additional positions that the Town and Administration require to keep up with our growth in both the infrastructure and the planning and development department. The reason that the net impact is only $111,483, Hastings said, is that the Town and Administration has other sources of revenue that will be coming in as a result of the Town’s growth, including higher than anticipated subdivision fees and the revenue associated with those fees as well as the Town’s ability to reduce the amount of reliance they have on external planning and engineering consultants. Van Rijn asked if anyone objected to the $111, 483 price tag and when there were no objections, the proposal was approved for the budget to be funded through a tax increase.

The last item, Van Rijn said, that was presented on previously, is the proposal for the replacement of the financial management software and that has $200,000 price tag. That Van Rijn said, is coming out of uh the Operational Surplus and Technology Reserve. When Van Rijn wanted to know if anyone had any questions, Councillor Jason Beekman wanted to know if this was a mandatory expense. Deputy CAO Beauchamp responded by saying that the Town’s current software is reaching its end of life so by the end of 2025 it will be discontinued, and they will be forced to make a transition. Given that, Beauchamp said, Administration is currently exploring different options as to providers and making a healthy transition from there as part of the large implementation, but they don’t know the exact cost yet because they are still in the early stages of things. Beauchamp said, though, that the implementation will be what they’ve seen from other municipalities and they’re quite confident with the staffing power and resources they have. This, Beauchamp said, is something that Administration is something that they are not going to spend money on because it’s available; if they can do a better job and do it internally, they will be doing that. Councillor Beekman then sought clarity, asking if the 2023 operational Surplus plus technology Reserve are literally just whatever their ratios are going to be and Administration confirmed that, saying the Reserve a fund that’s accumulated through the year and money isn’t put into it every year, so they try not to drain it. Depending on what the actual Surplus is for 2023, Administration said, their suggestion to Council would be to utilize those funds to it so they are not utilizing any new tax dollars. Beauchamp said that Administration believes that most of the project can be funded through the surplus, but if that does change, they may have to dip into that technology reserve. Councillor Abrey then asked Administration if the program if something that Council can pay for over a 10-year period or if it is $200,000 upfront. Beauchamp responded by explaining that there are two-folds: there is the annual licensing fee, which is already included in the budget and not part of the upfront cost. Beauchamp said that this is an item that Administration can minimize the reliance on external consultants on. Beauchamp also commented that their maintenance cost went from $30,000 to $200,000 because they’ve upgraded this program so their current licensing fee now is $65,000 for the budget for 2025; they’ve bumped that up to $100,000 and are also trying to consolidate a lot of the other programs that they use such as budgeting and Asset Management to reduce the impact on that. Van Rijn asked if anyone had any other questions and Councillor Abrey stated that since Administration said that the existing program is good until the end of 2025, is this something that Council, if they felt it necessary, could move to 2024, or would they rather get it in and start implementing it. Beauchamp explained that Administration will need at least a year to make the transition and to make sure everything’s running properly before the other software is essentially dead. Councillor Pickering then asked how long the new software will be good for. Beauchamp explained that the current software that the Town and Administration of Coaldale has in place has been in place since approximately 2012 and the new software will last for at least 10 years, so it will be a long-term investment that will be utilized well. Finally, there were no questions, and the Replacement of Financial Management Software proposal was approved. 

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