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Two per cent increase for utility fees on the table at budget open house

Ratepayers will have a chance provide input on a potential two per cent increase for garbage, recycling and utility fees at the Town of Bonnyville’s 2022 budget open house, which has been moved to an online format scheduled for Dec. 7.
BNV.19.20.12.MD Budget
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BONNYVILLE – Last Tuesday, the Town of Bonnyville council unanimously agreed to move the Dec. 7 open house for the 2022 operating and capital budgets online. 

Currently, the Town’s total forecasted deficit for the operational budget sits at $381,799. This is a decrease of almost $200,000 from the first draft of the budget, after efficiencies and some reductions in expenses were found by administration. 

During the open house, ratepayers will be able to provide input on several options brought forward by administration to reduce the overall operating deficit, while also reducing the potential amount of tax increase required to balance the interim operating budget for 2022. 

Suggestions include deferring the hiring for a new community peace officer position until 2023, and reducing the amounts provided to community organizations seeking funding from the Town, this includes funding for the Youth Hub, Friendship Centre and 4 Wing for the Air Show. Other suggestions brought to council include using an investment from ATCO on the Streetlight Program and increase the utility and garbage/recycling fees by two per cent. 

The last time the municipal fees for waste collection and utilities increased was two years ago, Renee Stoyles, the general manager of corporate services, told council.  

She said, “Including any of the above options would reduce the overall operating deficit and would also reduce any amount required for a tax increase.” 

The Town’s CAO, Bill Rogers, added, “We're putting a number of scenarios that could be implemented, including drawing the remaining amount from our general operating reserves, which currently sits at just under $2.7 million. What we're hoping is that with the upcoming strategic planning sessions and budget open house on Dec. 7, that council will have enough feedback so that we can make some firm recommendations on balancing the budget to be passed on Dec. 14th.” 

Speaking to her fellow councillors, Mayor Elisa Brosseau said, “It's important to know that some of these were new programs that came to the Town for requests, such as the Youth Hub and the men’s shelter. Those are items that are great to fund, but we haven't done in the past. So, food for thought.” 

Capital budget 

The second draft of the capital budget sits at a deficit of about $5.7 million, a drop of roughly $2.1 million from the previous draft.  

Council heard that the Town is anticipated to receive $1.1 million in provincial grant funds for 2022’s capital projects, however, that amount is a decrease of roughly $1 million from last year due to a drop in provincial Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding, explained Stoyles. 

Changes made to decrease the capital deficit included finding additional grants to provide the finances for capital project and the deferment of purchasing fire equipment and gear for the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority until 2023. 

Other recommendations by administration to further reduce the deficit include deferring several projects: the expansion of the Bonnyville Municipal Library, the Town administration’s upstairs office renovations, upgrades for Northpoint, roadway infrastructure projects and the 50 Ave. Functional Planning study. 

If council implements all changes recommended for the 2022 Capital Budget, the total deficit would decrease to $187,107. This could be covered by the Capital Reserve fund. 

“The budget draft does include anticipated grant funding from the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program (STIP) for a sound barrier along Highway 41 and the Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Program (AMWWP) for the new reservoir and pumphouse and decommissioning of the Water Treatment Plant,” Stoyles explained. “Should funding under these programs not get approval, administration would recommend deferring these projects as well until grant funding can be secured.” 

Stoyles also noted that council is able to determine which capital projects remain a priority based on the funding prior to the finalization of the capital budget in April. 

As of yet, no times have been announced for the virtual open house for the 2022 capital and operating budgets taking place on Dec. 7.

Jazmin Tremblay

About the Author: Jazmin Tremblay

Jazmin completed a minor in journalism at Hanze University in the Netherlands and completed her Communication Studies degree from MacEwan University with a major in journalism.
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