Bashaw town council wants to whittle down their draft 2024 operating budget after a detailed presentation at the March 20 regular council meeting.

Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller presented the draft operating budget to councillors, noting in her report that the town’s 2023 financial statement is still being prepared. 

“Once the audit is complete, the actuals within the budget will be updated and may impact the overall budget,” stated Fuller in her memo to council.

As Fuller and other staff reviewed all sections of the draft budget, she noted a few key areas. 

She began by saying there appeared to be a sight increase in staff functions and this was likely due to the policy of providing turkeys or hams to staff at Christmas, while the price of these items has increased noticeably; she noted councillors may wish to revisit that policy.

Under general administration, Fuller stated the budget remains fairly stable, noting that the previous grant program quite important to municipalities, the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI), has been replaced by a new program, the Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF) and Bashaw’s grant appears to be the same amount at $118,190. 

It was noted that a public auction generated additional revenue for this department.

Fuller stated that provincial requisitions such as education tax are tricky: the rate based on property assessment stayed much the same for education tax, but property values increased, so taxpayers will see an increase described as nine per cent.

Coun. Cindy Orom asked if the Town of Bashaw’s switch to monthly water billing affected this department. Fuller responded no, that would be part of the water budget.

The fire department was briefly discussed; the draft budget proposed stable funding and Fuller noted the department expects more calls in 2024. She also noted the Bashaw Fire Department has been successful in finding grant money.

Coun. Kyle McIntosh asked if the proposed wildland fire truck is listed in this budget; the CAO responded that the truck will be included in the capital rather than the operating budget.

The community services department, stated Fuller, can be tricky to budget as it’s difficult to predict, for example, how many building permits will be sought. 

She noted FCSS costs are a bit higher.

Discussing the Public Works department Fuller stated dust control and insurance costs have climbed. A bit more money has been earmarked for the airport as Fuller stated it’s unclear if a door being left open and a tap left running was an accident or intentional vandalism.

It was noted tipping fees at the landfill have gone down substantially, and the CAO noted that’s because Bashaw residents are strong recyclers.

Councillors also discussed maintenance and other costs associated with the community hall, with the CAO noting this building costs substantial money. “It’s an expensive building,” said Fuller.

In the recreation department staff mentioned unused ice time at the arena; it was noted users groups may want that ice time but aren’t aware of it.

Councillors discussed the draft operating budget; Mayor Rob McDonald noted that if about $66,500 were cut from this draft, town council would only have to consider a five per cent property tax increase or less if more savings can be found.

Coun. Bryan Gust stated he felt that there are places to find savings in the draft budget, plus suggested using reserves to get any possible tax increase down to a reasonable level.

Coun. McIntosh stated he felt councillors should have a talk about the dog/cat bylaw and mentioned a recent incident where dogs running at large cost the Town of Bashaw a substantial amount of money.

Councillors unanimously passed a resolution instructing town staff to cut at least $66,500 from the draft operating budget and bring the issue back to a future meeting.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 27, 2024 at 13:51

This item reprinted with permission from   East Central Alberta Review   Coronation, Alberta

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