Council budget proposes 2.5% tax increase

After two days of closed budget meetings, Ponoka town councillors have an interim budget ready for 2013.

After two days of closed budget meetings, Ponoka town councillors have an interim budget ready for 2013.

Mayor Larry Henkelman credited town staff and administration for their hard work to ensure councillors had the necessary information to make decisions during their Nov. 28 and 29 meetings. “They brought a reasonable and sensible budget to council.”

Expect to see a balanced budget for 2013 and some increases in assessment; with $7.9 million in new assessment, $5.3 million from residential and $2.6 million in commercial, it gives the town $54,000 in extra taxes. Henkelman feels it is shows Ponoka is attractive to investors and businesses.

The interim budget is proposing a 2.5-per-cent increase in taxes on residential properties. This will give the town an additional $116,000 in taxes. Henkelman said a home assessed at $300,000 should see a tax increase of about $46.

A steady increase in taxes shows developers Ponoka has steady, reliable growth said Henkelman. “Everybody seems to know where the town is going.”

To meet the challenge of staying within a 2.5-per-cent-increase, council set aside some larger projects for the future and using some reserve money to improve Ponoka’s infrastructure.

Planned improvements include additions to the Hudson’s Green Activity Centre, the Ponoka Recreation and Culture Complex, the Ponoka Jubilee Library, the Fort Ostell Museum and other recreation buildings, and to improve and extend the trail systems in Ponoka.

Councillors also approved funding to upgrade the water meter system using money set aside from 2012 and money for 2013; $150,000 for the former and $126,000 for the latter will allow more accurate water readings and for the town to inform residents they may have slow leak, explained CAO Brad Watson.

For 2013 council has also approved $233,000 to upgrade the electrical light department and its inventory.

“We’re happy to maintain the current infrastructure and also to improve it,” explained Henkelman.

One of the biggest challenges faced by council is the consideration for a new RCMP building, which could cost up to $7 million, said Henkelman. An architect must design the building and then it will be put to tender. The proposal will define whether a new building should be constructed or if the old one will be upgraded to meet the needs of the RCMP and the Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit.

An RCMP building does not come cheap, one jail cell can cost up to $85,000 and based on police statistics and usage, the new building needs eight or nine, explained Watson.

The other challenge Henkelman sees in the budget is the replacement of the north bridge on 50 Avenue.

“The money is just out of the question,” said Henkelman. The town is going to need government grants to help with new bridge construction.

“It’s a $7.5 million project,” stated Watson.

Watson has learned there are proposed amendments to the Navigation Protection Act under Fisheries and Oceans.

“I’ve since learned there is a list of rivers that have been taken off the list for needing studies as if they were navigable rivers. Battle River is one that has been taken off the list,” he told councillors during council meeting Nov. 27.

It will become effective once the proposal is passed.

Other items in the budget include expanding the Forest Home Cemetery, dust control on some roads and purchasing a new rescue truck for the Ponoka Fire Department.

The town and Ponoka County have set aside $125,000 each for the truck, and the Ponoka Fire Department has set aside $50,000 with a total cost of $300,000. The town will use funds from the provincial Municipal Sustainable Initiative fund.

Other items in the budget include expanding the Forest Home Cemetery, dust control on some roads and purchasing a new rescue truck for the Ponoka Fire Department.

The town and Ponoka County have set aside $125,000 each for the truck, and the Ponoka Fire Department has set aside $50,000 with a total cost of $300,000. The town will use funds from the provincial Municipal Sustainable Initiative fund.