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MD holding the line on municipal taxes

The MD of Bonnyville has passed their 2020 budget.
MD sign
The MD of Bonnyville has passed a $144-million budget for 2020, with no tax increase expected. File Photo

BONNYVILLE - At this point the MD of Bonnyville has no intention of increasing municipal taxes in 2020, after passing a balanced $144-million budget.

Although the final decision won't be made until the spring, Reeve Greg Sawchuk confirmed council doesn't plan on a tax hike this year.

“(The budget) doesn’t include a tax increase. Actually, built into it currently is a reduction in the non-residential (mill rate), but that decision won’t be made until probably March when we have all of the assessment numbers in and it’s at that point in time that we will adopt a mill rate bylaw,” he told the Nouvelle.

The $144-million budget, which was passed at council's Dec. 18 committee meeting, includes $87-million in operating and $57-million in capital expenditures.

“The budget will be funded with $76.5-million in taxation revenue, $47.2-million in reserves, $11-million in grants, and $10-million from sales and user charges as well as other contributions,” Tolulope Maraiyesa, general manager of corporate services for the MD, explained.

In order to hammer down the details, the MD held five council sessions where they reviewed the dollars and cents in addition to three public consultations where residents could provide their input.

Breaking down the operating budget

The MD is expecting to spend over $87.2-million in 2020 when it comes to operating expenditures.

This includes $26-million in municipal revenues, $692,630 for council and legislative costs, and $4-million in general administration items.

Fire protection services rings in at roughly $2-million, while ambulance services sit at $40,000. Public safety is projected to cost $2.6-million and 911 services are just shy of $192,000.

Over $31-million is being set aside for work on roads, streets, sidewalks, and lighting, and another $666,318 is in the budget for water supply and distribution.

Waste management comes at a cost of $2.6-million for the municipality, while the MD has included $1.4-million to run their parks, and nearly $2.5-million for work at Kinosoo Ridge.

This is being covered by the $110-million in revenue projected to flow into the municipality in 2020. Most of the dollars will be gathered from general municipal revenues for a total of $98.6-million, while the ski hill is estimated to bring in somewhere around $1-million, and roads, streets, sidewalks, and lighting could see $7-million in revenues.

Projects on the books for the new year

Sawchuk noted there are "a lot of capital projects underway," with a few carry-overs from 2019 for a total capital budget of $57.5-million for 2020.

“We noted that the budget has increased by about $20-million. This incorporates all of our carry forwards, which are projects that were budgeted for the 2019 year but weren’t executed,” Maraiyesa explained to council.

This includes items such as the new Cold Lake RCMP detachment. According to CAO Luc Mercier, the MD had included $1.5-million in 2019's budget for the project, but have since pushed it to 2020.

Also carried over from last year are the Ardmore and Fort Kent fire halls and the adventure park at Kinosoo Ridge.

All of these projects were accounted for in the 2019 capital budget, and will be paid for by the dollars set-aside in reserves.

“It was expended in 2019 and is carried forward,” detailed Mercier.

About $3.3-million was included for fire protection services, $67,000 for public safety costs, and $7.8-million for parks. The ski hill has about $3.3-million set aside for 2020 and includes the cost of the adventure park.

Mercier said "all of the little (carry-over) items just add up to that" $20-million brought forward from 2020. 

Somewhere in the ballpark of $14-million has been earmarked for eight road projects totalling nearly 21-kilometres of rip and relay work. An additional $2-million is budgeted for the replacement of three bridge structures. 

Eight drainage remediation projects are on the books fo 2020 at a cost of $6.7-million with areas such as Birch Grove, Country Side Estates, Country Lane Estates, and Willow Ridge getting some much-needed attention. 

When it comes to revenues, the municipality is projecting a total of $33-million to come their way; $3.3-million through fire protection services, $18-million from roads, streets, walks, and lighting, about $3.7-million from their parks, and $3.1-million thanks to the ski hill.

What's next?

Now that the budget has been passed, council can look forward to setting the mill rates in the new year and discussing the small business sub-class tax.

Sawchuk stressed that as of right now, the program is continuing.

“It’s likely to be a topic of discussion once we get into the topic of the mill rate bylaw. We do have room to move on that and we’re very aware of the current economic climate and the need from our small businesses for a little bit of help,” he noted.

According to Maraiyesa, administration is working on their financial plan and is expecting to present it to council in 2020.

Sawchuk said while changes to the ID 349 agreement may impact the budgets for the Town of Bonnyville and City of Cold Lake, it won't have the same affect on the MD.

Meagan MacEachern, Bonnyville Nouvelle