Budget passed

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An assessment of the Eastglen Water Tower, a complete rehabilitation of the 104 Avenue service road north of 110 Street and a new radio system will come hand-in-hand with a 1.68 per cent increase in municipal property taxes and utilities fees as part of the town’s 2017 budget.

Town of Westlock council passed the municipality’s capital and operating budgets at its regular meeting Feb. 27.

Newly-sworn-in deputy mayor David Truckey said that council was ahead of the game by getting the budget out so early.

“It would appear that amongst our neighbours, that we’re one of the first councils to pass a budget this year,” he said.

“A lot of municipalities are still working very hard on them. So it’s commendable for administration to get it done so quickly.”

An average a home valued at $250,000 will see a $36.52 increase in its annual tax bill and a $198 increase to its annual utility bill based on consumption.

“It’s clearly shown what the impact of the water rates and tax rate increases were in our budget,” said Coun. John Shoemaker. “I’m appreciative of that. They’ve made our job a lot easier.”

Mayor Ralph Leriger said he was pleased with the budget, commending administration for its careful accounting.

“This is council’s most important document that it produces each year,” said Leriger. “It’s our No. 1 task. I found this one extremely difficult.”

The town will have an operating budget of just over $18.6 million with $16.5 million in revenue, which on paper looks like deficit of just under $2.2 million.

However, chief administrative officer Dean Krause explained that the $2.2 million is actually budgeted for depreciation and amortization of the town’s assets and that the budget is in fact balanced. The total amortization in the budget adds up to just under $2.2 million, accounting for the deficit.

“The province makes us amortize our capital assets,” he explained. “Each year our assets depreciate, like the Spirit Centre, water lines and so forth. So we have to show that depreciation in our budget. The budget is balanced.”

Over $1 million has been earmarked to pay down the town’s long-term debt, which totaled $9,287,000 as of the end of 2016.

The debt was accumulated building the Rotary Spirit Centre, work on the Southview rehabilitation project and Westlock Place.

The capital budget totals a modest $1.36 million, with $565,000 going to pay off the remaining bill for the work done in Southview in 2016.

Southview is also slated to get a final coat of asphalt this year and Krause estimated that would amount to four or five days worth of work.

The water tower assessment is expected to cost $35,000 in total, while the new radio system comes in at $24,000 and the overhaul of the 104 Avenue service road will cost $18,000 for the preliminary design work.

“We took into consideration that it’s been a tough year for a lot of our residents and we tried to keep our increase as minimal as possible,” said Coun. Murtaza Jamaly.

“That was a really arduous task considering the uncertainty from the provincial government, in terms of funding. Uncertainty on things like the carbon tax and what the implications will be.

“I think that we’ve done a phenomenal job in ensuring our residents see a lower tax increase in comparison to last year.

“That’s just a reflection of us finding balance between growth in our community and maintaining our infrastructure and ensuring our residents can afford it.”

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