New assessment adds revenue to Ponoka’s budget

Ponoka residents will face increased costs next year, not only in their taxes but also in their utility bills.

Ponoka residents will face increased costs next year, not only in their taxes but also in their utility bills.

Councillors approved the 2013 interim budget during their Dec. 11 meeting with a 2.55 percent tax increase to ratepayers. The amount adds $166,144 to the town’s revenue. A home assessed at $300,000 should see the increase at $45.

Betty Quinlan, director of corporate services, feels the increase is a reasonable amount for Ponoka. There is also $7.9 million in new assessment, which adds $53,410 of revenue.

Details of the balanced budget show tax levies at $5 million and $7.2 million in sales and user charges, which comes from items such as utilities and land sales; these represent the larger part of the budget with government transfers at $3.7 million in the operating and the capital budget.

“Under operating we get grant funding for RCMP, Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI). Then the capital is MSI, the federal gas tax and the street improvement program,” Quinlan said, explaining some of the grants the town receives.

Total revenues show $17.1 million with an additional $2.1 million from interfund transfers from reserves resulting in $19.2 million.

“There weren’t a lot of significant changes in terms of the revenue budget this year,” she stated. “It was very static.”

The two largest changes were in the property taxes and the increase in sales and goods and services.

Much of what was considered in the 2013 budget was finding ways to improve the quality of life for residents and also to improve on the branding and economic development in the community.

“We’re really looking at modernization and upgrading of buildings for recreational and cultural purposes,” said Quinlan.

Examples are the improvements on the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex, the Hudson’s Green Activity Centre and the splash park.

There is also more money in the budget to expand the river valley trail system. “We’re really trying to work on the look and feel of the town.”

There has been stronger focus given to different recreational needs of the town such as the splash park, the Hudson’s Green Activity Centre and improving the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.

Of all the budgets Quinlan has put together, the 2013 interim budget is one she is most proud of, especially since it met councillors’ expectations.

“It is so in line with their plans it was an easy document for them to go through and accept in terms of fitting with their strategic plan and being reasonable compared to other municipalities,” she said. “There’s a lot of things being focused on.”

One of the recreational items in the budget is setting aside money for the ag event centre. “We committed to $50,000 per year in the event of a deficit.”

She understood that each of the partners of the centre agreed to the same amount.

For expenditures the largest expense is in environmental services at $3.9 million, which is in the solid waste and the waste transfer site, sanitary sewage and water. Quinlan said $800,000 will be spent on a lagoon aeration system, she explained. “It’s to put in solar aerators in the storage cells.”

The town was fined $70,000 December 2011 for releasing effluent that was harmful to fish in the Battle River. This new system will ensure the effluent has been treated according to standards of the Fisheries Act.

During the winter months the lagoon cells freeze and the contents stratify into layers, when the ice melts it takes some time before the cells mix again. The solar cells stop the layers from separating, which allows the town to release treated effluent earlier in the season.

The town is also setting aside money for the new RCMP building and the new civic building for administration as the current one is older and has issues with sewage seepage.

Carry forward projects amount to $2.28 million with $522,000 going toward the automated water metre reading system, which Quinlan said is a project that will be completed after several years.

Other carry forward projects include $450,000 for civic building development, $116,000 for a storm sewer extension into the Hudson Green Activity Centre, $125,000 to the upgrade and maintenance of the roof of the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex and $155,00 for the north trail bridge.

Councillors also approved a five-per-cent increase to utility flat rates. Residents will see changes to their water, sanitary and garbage bills in 2013. Examples provided to councillors show garbage, sanitary, and water costs for the average home rising to $125.78 per month compared to $119.83 for 2012; garbage went to $15.06 from $14.34, sanitary to $29.40 from $28.04, and water to $81.32 from $77.45.