Ponoka town council approved the 2024 interim town budget at its regular meeting Nov. 14.
“During two busy days of budget deliberations, council and administration worked together to find efficiencies and arrive at a lean, fiscally responsible budget,” said Town of Ponoka chief administrative officer Sandra Lund in a press release.
Lund added the budget balances spending and continuing to fund essential services, and investments for maintaining and upgrading key infrastructure.
The total amount of the 2024 interim budget is $26,089,075, which includes an operating budget of $22,691,540 and a capital budget of $3,397,535.
The municipal property tax increase for 2024 will be calculated in the spring after property assessment values are available. After that, council will review and adopt the final budget.
The municipal portion of property taxes are projected to be a monthly increase of about $3.41 per $100,000 of residential property value assessment, and $4.45 per $100,000 of commercial property value assessment — the equivalent of a 4.9 per cent increase.
According to the release, the increase is to help offset inflation costs and ensure the continued delivery of reliable services.
“Council worked very hard to keep property taxes as low as possible while continuing to fund all the key services that citizens rely on,” said Mayor Kevin Ferguson in the release.
The 2024 interim budget includes an infrastructure renewal program.
“The town is committed to maintaining and replacing key infrastructure in our community each year as determined by our asset management planning,” said Ferguson.
The majority of Ponoka’s capital and infrastructure projects in the budget are usually funded through provincial and federal grant funding, stated the release.
However, in the 2024 interim budget, more than half of the funding for those projects is scheduled to come from town reserves due to a significant decline in federal and provincial grant funding over the past few years.
Some of the capital and infrastructure projects planned for 2024 include:
- Ponoka’s annual pavement and concrete improvement program – This includes annual maintenance and improvement of Town roadways and sidewalks throughout the community;
- Waterworks system improvements – Including ongoing equipment rehabilitation at town pump stations and reservoirs to ensure optimum operation and reliability of the system; and planning and analysis for future improvements to the town’s Wastewater Treatment System;
- Sports field maintenance and upgrades – Improvements to ball diamonds and soccer pitches, including new lighting at the river valley ball diamonds, as well as player bench covers and the development of design improvements for the Lucas Heights soccer pitches; and
- Lions Centennial Park upgrades – Development of design improvements for the park which will be guided by public consultation in 2024. Construction will occur in the future based on design and funding approval by town council.
The interim budget considered input from the public from a number of consultation engagements about what council’s priorities should be, stated the release.
The top priorities identified by citizens included community safety, parks and recreation, growth and economic health, roads, sidewalks and trails.
“I think this interim budget does a very good job of balancing the needs of our community while positioning Ponoka for continued growth and success,” said Ferguson.