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Coaldale approves operating and capital budgets

Posted on December 24, 2023 by Sunny South News

By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News

Following weeks of discussion, Coaldale town council approved finalized budgets for the next year.

Mayor Jack Van Rijn noted that the budget discussions taking place during the Dec. 11 council meeting were based on the Town “being made whole” by the province for the 30 per cent shortfall they are finding themselves in based on their federal contract. Van Rijn cautioned if they do not receive the funding by February or March 2024, they will have time to revisit the budget before setting their mill rates in May 2024. However, Van Rijn said they were told they would hear back by the end of the year.  

Kyle Beauchamp told council they had the option of either passing finalized or interim budgets this meeting. The council meeting discussion would be their sixth budget meeting over the 2024-2026 Operating and 2024-2028 Capital Budgets.

The Municipal Government Act mandates that municipalities must pass at least an interim budget for a calendar year before the start of that calendar year. The interim budgets could only operate for part of the year, and cease to be in effect once the finalized capital and operating budgets are passed.

Some major Operational Budget items discussed during the council meeting and approved include:

• PPE – Fire Department: $90,000, to be funded from 2023 Operational Surplus

• Door Access – Fire department: $25,000, to be funded from 2023 Operational Surplus

• Photo Radar/Bylaw Operator: $35,000, to be funded from Photo Radar

• Alberta Advantage Immigration Program: $9,000, to be funded from taxes

• Community Services position: $52,000, to be funded from taxes

• Utility Operator – 2025: $52,000, to be funded from utilities

• Resourcing Proposal: $111,483, to be funded from taxes

• Replacement of Financial Management system: $200,000, to be funded from 2023 Operational Surplus and Technology Reserve (dependent on the actual operating surplus amount)

• Road Rehab Program: $575,000 (2025) and $750,000 (2026), funding contingent on RCMP 70-30 Cost Sharing Agreement

• Town Shop Replacement Reserve: $50,000 (2024), $100,000 (2025) and $150,000 (2026), funding contingent on RCMP 70-30 Cost Sharing Agreement

• Pathway Reserve: $25,000 (2024), $50,000 (2025) and $75,000 (2026), funding contingent on RCMP 70-30 Cost Sharing Agreement

• Cemetery Reserve: $10,000 (2024), $20,000 (2025) and $30,000 (2026)

One item, the Museum Annual Funding Increase with a cost of $25,000, would be revisited in 2024. Additionally, RCMP FTE Addition, with a cost of $125,486 (2026) and $169,577 (2026), was included, with funding being contingent on additional information being provided.

Some Capital Budget items slated for 2024 include:

• Fleet and Heavy Equipment

• Zero Turn Mower: $55,125 

• GPS Field Line Painter: $35,280

Building and Facilities

• Library – Lighting Upgrades: $45,000 – grant dependent

• Library – Washroom Renovation: $44,000

• Seniors Centre – Lighting Upgrades: $25,000 – grant dependent

Construction Projects

• Multi-Use Recreation Facility (2020-24): $18,880,000

• Civic Square Outdoor Space Phase 3 (2023-2024): $4,483,907

• Civic Square Phase 1 Addition (2023-2024): $620,500 545,500 75,000

• Birds of Prey Enhancements – Grant Dependent: $2,050,000 

• HWY 3 & Land O’ Lakes Drive Pedestrian Crossing: $1,450,000 

• NE Industrial Park Paving: $135,000

Utility Projects

• Water Reservoir (2023-2024): $11,100,000

• Malloy 2B(1) (2024-2025): $5,784,000

• Sanitary Trunk Line – Phase 1 (14th Ave): $1,875,000, a third of cost to be paid for by the developer

• Cottonwood Fountain Ponds – Replaced: $60,000

General Equipment

• Recreation Centre – Furniture & Equipment: $330,000

Other items listed in the capital budget were slated for replacement or purchase in future years. For example, two fire trucks purchases with budgets of $100,000 and $200,000 are scheduled for 2025 and 2027 respectively. 

To balance the 2024-2026 Operating Budget, Council needed to find an additional $506,240 in revenue, largely due to high inflation. This meant that the town either needed to increase revenues, or raise taxes, to maintain current services levels; cut back on spending and reduce service levels; or implement a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. 

“Inflation is impacting every town and city across Canada, and Coaldale is no different,” said Jack Van Rijn, Mayor of Coaldale. “We’re seeing a universal rise in the cost of goods and services, forcing many municipalities into a situation where they either have to hike property taxes or cut services to manage their budgets. Fortunately, our Council and Town staff continue to navigate this challenge in a fiscally responsible and relatively successful manner.”

Ultimately, council went with a 2.65 per cent residential, a 3.89 per cent non-residential property tax increase, a two per cent increase in franchise fees for natural gas and electricity, and a 3.9 per cent utility rate increase. These increases mean that the financial impact on a $400,000 home in Coaldale will be $15.63 per month, or $187.56 per year.

“Unlike a lot of municipalities in Alberta, we’ve managed to preserve existing service levels without imposing a major hike in property taxes. At the same time, we’ve been able to put forward a robust capital budget that continues to address many of the priorities laid out in our 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, and that’s largely financed through grants and Town reserves.”

Mill rates for the town will be set in the spring.

Council passed motions to approve the 2024 – 2026 Operating Budget – finalized based on Council’s budget deliberations, and to approve the 2024 – 2028 Capital Budget – finalized based on Council’s budget deliberations, in split 5-2 votes. Coun. Jason Beekman and Jacen Abrey were opposed to both motions.

The 2024-2026 Operating and 2024-2028 Capital Budgets are available to view online at https://www.coaldale.ca/Budgets.

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