Debate sparked about town’s budgeting process

Ponoka Golf Course update and other council briefs

The agenda item of choosing the dates for council’s annual budget deliberations sparked a discussion during council’s regular meeting Sept. 8 about the whole budgeting process.

Administration asked for a workshop with council to get some advance direction regarding the different budget options — a tax increase to maintain service levels, no tax increase and decreased service levels, or a tax decrease with some services reduced.

“In order for us to begin preparing the budget, for us to meet council’s expectations as well, recognizing there has been a lot of change this year with COVID, we have removed some the items from the budget,” said Sandra Lund, adding a workshop would be helpful if council had the time.

Lund is the general manager of corporate services, and was the acting Chief Administrative Officer for the meeting.

Coun. Carla Prediger didn’t feel a workshop was necessary, saying that over the last seven years, the parameters have already been well identified.

“One of my requests, would be, don’t come to us with a number that requires excessive deliberation,” said Prediger.

“Come to us with a number that we’ve usually been able to settle. I don’t think that requires a workshop, I think that just requires due diligence and finding a more common negotiating amount, percentage, than what we’ve had historically, that takes us one day to whittle down to what we even find as palatable.”

Lund responded that is administration’s goal as well.

“At 13 per cent starting? No,” said Prediger.

Coun. Teri Undergill agreed with Prediger, and suggested council could provide some direction to administration during the time they’re in Calgary attending the virtual Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) convention.

Tim Schmidt, general manager of planning and infrastructure, added that a conversation about revenues and expenditures would be beneficial.

Nov. 18 and 19 were set as budget deliberation dates.

Another area of contention was the absent formal review of service levels.

“When you talk about current service levels and tax increases … I feel like this is something we’ve said over and over again, is we’ve never received a service level review,” said Underhill.

“I really don’t know what the current service levels look like. If you want an answer from me, you’re not going to get it until I get service levels.”

Underhill added council has been asking for the review for at least four years.

Prediger brought up that with COVID, there are also budgetary opportunities to cut costs and find efficiencies.

“Show me the growth and I’ll give you the increases for what you need to do that,” said Mayor Rick Bonnett.

Ponoka Golf Club

The Ponoka Community Golf Club (PCGC) is exempt from paying municipal taxes under a 2018 town bylaw. As such, it reported its audited financial statement for the 2019 operational year.

PCGC stated that COVID-19 has reduced the club’s income by 75 per cent, with the cancellation of many tournaments and events and the impact on food and beverage sales.

It was suggested at their AGM that they look at leasing out their restaurant and the club is entertaining the idea, and have received one proposal to-date.

Fields didn’t need to be mowed this summer with no golf tournaments, but the club is planning to groom its cross country ski trails over the winter.

“We believe the agreement that we struck is mutually beneficial to the golf course and to the town. We will continue to provide the services as we have in the past, and we’ll have to wait and see what happens in 2021 with our friend COVID,” said PCGC president Ed Bachman.

The one silver lining mentioned that was with other activities shut down, more youth have been taking up a golf club and hitting the green.

Library board appointment

Kathleen Terry was appointed t0 the library board for a three-year term.

International Day of Older Persons

Town council proclaimed Oct. 1, 2020 as International Day of Older Persons in Ponoka. The town will be collaborating with the Ponoka Legion to co-host events at the civic centre, with tea, coffee and treats.

Sponsorships

Council approved a $300 sponsorship to become the Ponoka bantam Broncs’ t-shirt sponsor for this season.

A $750 sponsorship for the 2020 chamber business awards was also approved, to be funded from the advertising, promotions and sponsorship budget. The awards this year will be held using a virtual platform.

Town of Ponoka

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