ELK POINT - Elk Point town council took a long, hard look at their 2022 final budget last Wednesday evening in an effort to keep mill rate increases to Elk Point ratepayers to a minimum.
Early in the meeting a they went over the 2022 capital budget, manager of finance Robyn Normand reported that the town has accumulated $261,412 in federal gas tax over the past two and a half years, which in addition to $323,588 in Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding will pay for the $585,000 waterline replacement program on 48 Ave. from 54 to 52 Street, without the vendor carrying any of the cost over to 2023. “That’s a good news story,” CAO Ken Gwozdz told council.
The 2022 capital budget total stands at $1,259,572.
Following a lengthy closed session at the beginning of the meeting, council rethought plans to create a community policing position, and to instead leave the positions of bylaw officer and animal control officer in place. “We’d better know what we’re getting into,” Coun. Tim Smereka said of the community policing option, while Deputy Mayor Dwayne Yaremkevich noted that there are “some questions to be answered, it could be feasible. I would support looking into it.”
Coun. Jason Boorse expressed concern that “it’s a big jump with no public input. I’m on the fence.”
Training for the community policing position would cost roughly $7,000 and Normand told council, “It is very unlikely you would see any savings this year.”
Mayor Parrish Tung noted that a new bylaw would be required to establish the position, and said the two existing positions could be upgraded in the future, “this is a compromise.”
Cuts were made in numerous areas of the budget, from public relations and legal services to promotional items and grants to the Economic Development Committee, with a portion of the latter funding moved to increase grants to organizations. It was decided to delete funding for a recreation coordinator and professional services under the recreation program heading entirely for this year.
At that point, council was still over the expense total amount that would permit only a .5 mill increase in property taxes, until council took another look at the revenue side, and asked Normand to research past years’ amounts of bulk water sales, agreeing that with the increase in oil patch activity, there would be more usage this year than in 2021. After calculating a cost for the additional amount, the water revenue was adjusted, resulting in the desired balance between revenue and expenses. The operating budget total for the year is now set at $5,376,388.54.
With less than 10 minutes remaining before the 10 p.m. deadline that would send council into costly overtime, council approved the budget, which will now require only a .499 mill, equal to four per cent, increase in taxes.
“On behalf of the residents of Elk Point, I thank you," the mayor told council and administration for their efforts to bring the total to a reasonable amount.
The 2022 mill rates will be set at the April 25 council meeting.