BONNYVILLE – Despite a challenging year due to the global pandemic, the MD of Bonnyville has plans to keep municipal taxes steady in 2021 after passing a balanced $150-million budget.
Although the mill rates won’t be set until March, Reeve Greg Sawchuk noted council "expects to hold them steady."
“Council understands it must rein in spending, just as all of our residents and businesses are under the same budgeting pressures,” he detailed in a statement to ratepayers.
The budget, which was passed during council’s Dec. 16 meeting, includes $70.13-million in capital expenditures and $80.08-million in operating expenses.
According to Tolulope Maraiyesa, general manager of corporate services, the municipality’s main source of revenue is taxation, which they anticipate to collect $73.74-million in 2021.
“The 2021 budget doesn’t include any changes to the residential mill rate, however, the 2021 budget does reflect the expected decrease in taxation revenue from linear property due to the Assessment Model Review changes announced by the province of Alberta in late 2020,” she detailed.
Council held four budget deliberations to take a closer look at each of their departments earlier this year before presenting the drafts to the public during open houses in person in Flat Lake and Cherry Grove, along with a virtual consultation for the Bonnyville area.
“The 2021 budget is a forward-looking budget for the MD,” Sawchuk noted. “It recognizes the current economic climate with providing long-term planning for recreation and infrastructure. The goal is to meet the priority needs of all of our ratepayers and continue to be a leader in economic diversity to provide more opportunities in our region.”
Breaking down the operating numbers
The price tag for operating expenditures the MD is expecting in 2021 is $80.08-million.
This includes roughly $4.74-million in grants, $682,200 in council expenses, and $7.6-million in general governance.
Fire protection services ring in at roughly $2.4-million, while public safety is sitting at $3.7-million.
Infrastructure has $27.34-million put toward it, with $1.24-million going toward contracted services and $14.79-million for materials, goods, and supplies.
Waste management comes at a cost of $2.6-million for the municipality.
Parks, recreation, and culture has a total price tag of $3.8-million, while Kinosoo Ridge’s expenses will ring in at $3.03-million.
This is expected to be covered by the $93.13-million in revenue projected to come into the municipality in the upcoming year. Roughly $4.74-million will come from grants, while $4.50-million will come from sales and user charges.
Priority projects for council
The capital expenditures for the municipality are sitting around $70.13-million for 2021.
The expenditures for infrastructure services are sitting around $42.08-million, with $7.4-million for paving and reconstruction of gravel roads, $1.55-million for subdivision roads, $4.07-million for bridge repairs or replacements and more than $7-million for roadworks such as drainage, gravelling, dust control, rip and relay, shoulder pulls, and pothole repairs.
Water and sewer has an estimated capital expenditure of $3.7-million, while public safety is sitting around $528,000.
Fire protection services has $2.19-million put toward it, with $1.99-million going toward buildings in this category. One of the MD’s priorities for this department is renovating the Kopala building to become the new home for the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority (BRFA), which will see Station 5, 911 services, EMS, and the BRFA administration having a central base once it’s completed.
Kinosoo Ridge Snow Resort has $5.02-million set aside for 2021 and includes the cost of the adventure park.
How much the municipality is planning to spend on recreation was an issue for Coun. Ed Duchesne, which is described as "way over what we usually spend."
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s way over what we should be spending on recreation and I’d like to see some cuts brought in or some changes, because that’s a really large part of our budget,” he noted, adding he wasn’t sure why the MD had a budget of $1-million for its trails.
“I think that should be taken out of there for now because we have other things to look after. We have so much going on with drainage and roads, the recreation costs that we already have in place, I think we have to slow down a little bit on our spending.”
While Coun. Dana Swgiart understood Duchense’s want to be "fiscally balanced," his concern with cutting recreation could impact people wanting to live and visit the municipality.
“You want people to come to the MD, enjoy living here, and want to bring their kids here. If you just chop recreation and just consider roads, there’s prime things we do need, that’s for sure, but you can’t just wipe out a recreation budget.”
Duchesne agreed to leave the budget as it was presented by administration, and have it brought back for further discussion in the future before the municipality passes the final 2021 budget in the spring.