After two and a half days of going over the numbers, the Municipal District of Taber council accepted the interim 2016 budget during their regular council meeting on Dec. 8.
Basing their numbers on the current mill-rate of a two per cent increase for all classes due to inflation, council is not expecting as much tax revenue to come in next year, due to several oil and gas companies in the area going out of business.
“What’s complicating the budget process this year are two factors,” said Derrick Krizsan, CAO for the M.D. “The first is the assessment year modifiers for oil and gas, and oil and gas properties primarily has been decreased for 2016, meaning based upon the preliminary numbers that the province has given us, is we can expect, with the same mill-rate we had in 2015, to raise $500,000 less revenue.
“Complicating this of course are the bankruptcies occurring in the oil and gas sector. The consequences of which we’re not going to really be able to assess until we get into later in 2016.”
As a result, the M.D. is preparing to operate with $213,000 less in revenue, and have planned for a “very conservative” budget, reducing spending on equipment and carefully planning the projects for 2016.
The 2016 operating budget features the M.D having $398,131 of wiggle room, compared to $435,990 from the 2015 budget. Highlights of the interim budget include spending about 2.5 per cent more on transportation services – including adding two full-time staff members to crush gravel – for a total of $9,018,971 and spending $1.2 million on fire services but offsetting that cost with an increase of over 300 per cent in revenues.
The budget also include a decline of two per cent in residential properties assessments, and a four percent decrease in non-residential and linear property assessments, from declines in market value, and to spend $30,000 for a census to take place.
“Just to back up to justify the $30,000 for a census,” said Brian Brewin, reeve for the M.D. “A lot of our grants are done on population base, so quite often we’ll do a census in between when the (federal) census does, because if we have an increase to our population, it’s actually a benefit to our numbers. They will use our numbers, going forward with grant funding.”
In the 2016 interim capital budget, there are $4,321,838 worth of transactions, up 22.8 percent from last year, due to an increase in total costs for transportation services, fire protection, water department, recreation and parks and administration.
Also, when factoring in amortization and the operating surplus, the M.D. has access to $113,188 less cash then what was available in the 2015 budget.
“We’re starting with our surplus – basically we’re operating is cash in, cash out, revenues and expenses – but there’s one expense in there that’s not a cash outlay. When we record amortization expense, you don’t write a check,” said Bryan Badura, director of corporate services for the M.D. “But it’s included in the operating section.”
By taking the operating surplus, detracting the net capital transaction and adding the amortization, you end up with the cash position at the end of the year. Since 2015 isn’t over yet, Badura says the M.D. is still not sure how much cash they’ll have to start at the beginning of next year, so this is only an estimate.
Purposed capital projects for 2016, to be completed within 16 weeks, include:
* M.D. Construction forces capital project roadways
– TWPR 14-2 from RR 15-2 to 15-1 (1 miles)
– RR 18-5 from Hwy 526 to TWPR 15-0 (4 miles)
– TWPR 9-4 from RR 14-5 to 14-3 (2 miles)
– TWPR 9-2 from RR 14-3 to 14-5 (2 mile), if 9-4 project cannot be completed
– TWPR 8-4 from Hwy 36 to RR 17-2 (2 miles)
– RR 17-2 from TWPR 8-2 to 8-4 (2 miles)
* M.D. Construction forces operational roadways (road rehabs)
– RR 15-5 from Hwy 524 to TWPR 14-4 (6 miles)
– RR 15-2 from Hwy 524 to 14-2 (4 miles)
– RR 15-5 from TWPR 14-0 to 14-3 (2 miles)
– TWPR 11-0 from RR 15-3 to 15-0 (3 miles)
– RR 15-1 from TWPR 11-0 to 11-2 (2 miles)
– RR 15-0 from TWPR 11-0 to 11-2 (2 miles)
– Culvert 900mm liners for Huckleberry crossings
– Grassy Lake 1st St N drainage improvements
– TWPR 10-0 from 17-7 to 19-0 chip seal
– Grassy Lake and Hays utility servicing projects
– Fire equipment – misc.
– New walking trail – conditional on funding
– Johnson’s Addition Waste Water Engineering
– Administrate building renovations
– Municipal Shop – Taber
– West Township 8 Range Road Storm water project
Some projects are dependent on funding. For example, Johnson’s Addition residences want to see the project being completed, but also want to see if funding will be available.
“(Johnson’s Addition is) another project that’s kind of on hold, right now, until we get grant funding for it,” said Brewin. “With the two new governments, we really haven’t had time for them to put out new grants; we don’t know what grants are going to be there or aren’t going to be there. Both have had promises for infrastructure spending, and one of their highlights has been waste water and water. So we’re hoping something will come through there.”
Grant funding from the M.D. to various organization has been given a boost in the interim budget. Recreation grants have increased to $500,104, with the addition of a $1,500 grant to the Enchant Golf Club and $7,000 for Taber Gymnastics. Museum funding remains steady at $7,500 and total library funding gets a 2.4 per cent increase to $127,295.16, due to annual increases for the M.D. Library Board and the Chinook Arch.
Other miscellaneous grants were reduce by about $2,500 to $15,175, due to the exclusion of one-time grants from the previous year.
This budget will be in force until April 2016, when the M.D. will be able to set their new mill-rate, and subsequently revisit and finalize the budget.