BONNYVILLE – Excitement filled the Town of Bonnyville’s council chambers on Oct. 26, as councillors, many new to their role as a publicly elected official, waited to be sworn in as mayor and council.
Opening the first organizational meeting and taking the floor, Bill Rogers, the Town of Bonnyville’s CAO, told those in attendance and those tuning in online, “Once every four years following an election it's my pleasure to call a meeting to order that organizes and swears in the new mayor and council.”
Transitioning from a town councillor to Bonnyville’s next serving mayor, Elisa Brosseau was the first to raise her right hand and take the oath swearing that she will diligently, faithfully and to the best of her ability, execute according to law the office of mayor.
Also taking the oath to serve the citizens of the town, was returning Coun. Brian McEvoy, followed by new councillors Neil Langridge, Kayla Blanchette, Phil Kushnir and David Sharun.
Last to take the oath and nearly forgotten, Coun. Byron Johnson cracked jokes about being voted off the island so soon after being elected as town administrators ran to quickly track down his paperwork that once signed confirms his appointment to council.
Deputy mayors selected
McEvoy will be the first of the six councillors to fill the role of deputy mayor, which is an alternating eight-month term.
Taking over the position afterwards will be Kushnir, then Langridge, Johnson and Blanchette. Followed by Sharun would will stand in as deputy mayor before the next municipal election.
First draft of 2022 budget approved
As councillors settled into their new roles, they were asked to give feedback on administration’s first draft of the 2022 operational budget and the 2022 capital budget, and to select a date for a public open house for the budget.
Councillors voted unanimously to hold the Town’s 2022 Budget Open House on Dec. 7, where members of the public can review the document and provide feedback.
An interim operating budget must be passed by council prior to Dec. 31, but can be amended before council passes the 2022 Property Tax Rate Bylaw at the end of April 2022.
Addressing council, Renee Stoyles, the Town’s general manager of corporate services said, “Draft one of the 2022 operating budget, currently has a deficit of $575,861. Just to give Council a review from last year, at this time, draft one had a deficit of 1.6 million.”
Before the open house takes place in December, council will have another opportunity to make changes to both of the capital and operating budgets.
A second draft will be presented to council on Nov. 23. Further changes can then be made to the 2022 budget during council’s strategic planning session, which is set for Nov. 26.
Stoyles noted the Town’s general operating reserve is estimated to have a balance of $2.6 million by the end of 2021, and can be used to help balance the 2022 operating budget.
Revenue outweighed by expenses
Giving a brief summary of how the Town’s 2021 budget is unfolding, Stoyles told council that there has been a $220,000 boost in revenue from a handful of revenue streams.
However, the Town’s overall expenses have increased by $796,000 from the 2021 final budget. Many of the price increases, Stoyles attributed to inflation and a wide-spread increase in the cost of materials, fuel, shipping and labour.
The financial sources that have raked in a higher revenue come from franchise fees from Atco Electric and Apex Utilities of about $153,000, and an increase in fine revenue and RCMP rent of roughly $30,000.
Areas where the Town saw a decrease in revenue was in sewer lagoon disposal sales, which dropped by $145,000, and a decrease in building permit revenue, which came in $20,000 short of projections.
Both of these revenue shortfalls can be linked to the depressed economy, explained Stoyles.
Some of the additional expenses incurred during the 2021 fiscal year that will also impact the future budgets, were increased spending on general services expenses for the newly established Youth Hub and the addition of the communications coordinator to a full-time position and the addition of a community peace officer (CPO) dispatch officer.
Stoyles also noted that beginning March of 2022, utility costs and fuel will increase to include the carbon levy, which will be roughly $50 a tonne. According to administration, the carbon levy will likely affect the expenses of most departments.
Expenses accounted for in the 2022 budget include a review and strategic plan for the downtown revitalization committee and equipment replacements for all of the Town’s fleet vehicles.
“We just did a review of all of them and what they would actually cost now going forward over the next five years,” she told council.
Reviewing areas that will see a decrease in spending for the upcoming year, Stoyles said, “Where expenses have decreased (is) our council expenses ‘other’ for their tablets. The municipal election, of course, was in 2021, we won't be having one in 2022.”
She continued, “The telephone contract – we have just switched so that those costs will go down. The Water Treatment Plant has come offline, and recycling costs – we just renewed that contract for a decreased rate.”
Capital budget projects
Several projects that were not part of 2021 long-term capital plan have been included in draft one of the 2022 capital budget.
Costs included in the 2022 capital budget are renovations for upstairs at the Town administration offices, and IT infrastructure upgrades that will be financed in portions until the project wraps up in 2025.
Also requiring upgrades are the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) equipment for the fire department, which will be funded from the equipment replacement reserve, explained Stoyles.
Other capital plan projects slated for 2020 are alley improvements that include the 48 Ave. south lane repaving, a sound barrier privacy wall alone Highway 41, road rehabilitation for 53 Ave., and resurfacing the splash park mat, which saw a $50,000 price jump from estimated construction costs last year.
Adding Tree lighting along Jessie Lake Trail is also included in the budgets, however, Stoyles noted this will appear as an annual cost until the path along the trail is completely lit.
Also intended for the 2022 capital budget is the construction of a pier on Jessie Lake and road paving to the Bonnyville dog park, which the Town administrators are still determining the cost of.
Stoyles pointed out that there remains a number of 2021 capital projects that are still ongoing.
“The final expenditures for those (projects) once known, if they have to be carried over, will be added to the final budget,” with the 2021 funding allocated for each individual project, she added.