ST. PAUL - After a number of meetings, and what was described as trimming expenses as much as possible while still maintaining the same level of service, the Town of St. Paul has opted for an increase in the mill rate for 2021, in a bid to balance the budget.
The 2021 tax rate for residential was approved at 8.2673 mills, and 17.1240 for non-residential. In 2020, the tax rate for residential was 7.585 mills and 16.201 for non-residential.
The increase has a direct relation to a drop in assessment that's been seen in many municipalities across the province. At the April 15 Committee of the Whole meeting, Bob Daudelin with Accurate Assessment Group presented to Town of St. Paul council, stating a three per cent overall drop in assessments.
"Given the drop in overall assessment of $24 million in order to balance the budget, council directed administration to go back and they have now trimmed expenses as far as we could and still maintain the same level of service," said Heyman.
Lower assessments means less tax revenue for the town. In order to continue offering the same level of services, and maintain a balanced budget, councillors and administration met numerous times ahead of the April 26 meeting where the operating budget, capital budget, and tax rate bylaw were approved.
When speaking to the operating budget, CAO Kim Heyman said directors of each department within the municipality worked to trim expenses as far as they could.
Mayor Maureen Miller acknowledged the hard work done by each department and fellow councillors. She felt it was never good to take away services, but work must be done to ensure those services are viable.
When speaking to the capital budget, Heyman spoke to how Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding will be dropping significantly in 2022 and 2023. In a previous meeting held on April 23, council discussed putting some of the 2020 MSI funding into a reserve, and using it over the course of the next two years.
After all projects that have already been committed to are taken into account, there is an excess of about $436,000 in the capital budget.
Coun. Ron Boisvert said he would support putting more into reserves, due to the decrease in MSI funding that is expected, but also wanted to be sure that if any department felt there was a necessity that needed to be addressed, those funds could be brought forward.
During budget discussions on April 23, Coun. Norm Noel requested a dog park be put onto the books as a future project. Noel has brought up the issue of a dog park a number of times, and wanted to ensure the project was included in future plans.
During Monday night's discussions of the capital budget, Heyman said she had received a preliminary quote on fencing off an area approximately the size of Kendelstick Park. The quote was $19,100, which offers the town "a place to start," said Heyman.
The item was not originally placed in this year's capital budget, although some councillors questioned if it should be.
"I would like to see that one move forward," said Coun. Brad Eamon. He also said he felt it was "an easy win" to include the creation of a new tobogganing hill into this year's budget.
A possible location for the dog park was brought up during discussions on April 23, which was land located on the southeast end of town, with access possibly along 40th Street. It was noted that fencing could be removed if the land was developed in the future.
Council ultimately agreed to put the $436,000 into a Parks and Recreation reserve, although steps could be taken to use the funds in other ways, if required.
Miller noted the town is "mulling over a number of ideas" at the moment.
Tax Rate Bylaw
When discussing the Tax Rate Bylaw, Miller noted that it's been a difficult year, but the town is focused on maintaining services, which will result in a slight change to the mill rate. She noted that she felt it was for the good of the community to maintain services.
"We had (directors) make some very difficult decisions," said Miller.
The mayor said she felt the Town has been able to accomplish a lot of great things, such as the construction of the new Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the recently delivered roll-out waste bins. She believes the town is moving to being a more responsible community, all around.
The Tax Rate Bylaw was approved.
Total expenditures in the 2021 operating budget are set for $17,122,586 million, and total revenue on the budget is set for $17,122,599 million, resulting in a surplus of just over $12.
Priorities in 2021 already set include three new furnaces for the town office, curbside garbage cans, a tandem truck and half-ton truck, a roller packer, surveillance system at the transfer station, the 57th Street project, curb and gutter program, a leaf sweeper and wash pad at the golf course, playground upgrades, new software for Parks and Recreation, swimming pool HVAC replacement, and swimming pool roof work.
Fencing near the skate park along 53rd Avenue, and the dog park were also noted as possibilities in the capital budget.