Residents had their chance to speak up on the Town of Ponoka’s budget process Wednesday, Sept. 9 during an open house session.
One of the biggest challenges for council, says Coun. Marc Yaworski, and deputy mayor as Mayor Rick Bonnett was away, is planning for projects without stable funding from the federal and provincial governments.
“We have provincial money that we may or may not get,” said Yaworski.
He added that whether money is provided or not, council must still act on important projects such as the North Bridge and road realignment project. To help deal with those challenges, council is looking at different ideas to gain more revenue such as the town owning its own utility services, explained Yaworski. “It’s something that we talk about.”
Betty Quinlan, director of corporate services for the Town of Ponoka, said planners will take the information provided at the open house and look at how it fits with the operation and capital budgets for the town. As an example, one resident had concerns over speeding.
“By hearing people’s concerns, it highlights areas we need to address,” explained Quinlan.
“So we might change our service delivery or create higher priorities within them,’ she added as an example.
The goal is to respond to residents’ needs in all areas of the town. Balancing wants and needs can be a tough challenge for budget planners and Quinlan says it becomes a question of prioritizing projects.
“There’s never enough money for everything. Capital budgets, usually we have to cut as much as we keep,” explained Quinlan.
In its strategic planning, the town has created guiding pillars that help provide structure in the budget deliberation process. Areas such as quality of life and infrastructure are addressed in these pillars. Quinlan added that infrastructure needs such as water and sewer tend to be the priority as they are a necessity.
The four pillars are:
· Vibrant lifestyle infrastructure
· Economic growth
· Operational excellence
· Leadership and good government
Yaworski added that recreation is an important aspect of the planning process for council. He feels recreation will become a necessity due to aging recreation facilities such as the aquaplex.
“We need to have facilities for young families who want to move to Ponoka,” said Yaworski.
He feels offering those amenities will help the town grow.
A survey is available for residents to add their thoughts to the process. Find the link here: http://www.ponoka.ca/town-hall/333-2015-budget-survey.