Ponoka council passes small budget increase

  • Dec. 22, 2010 2:00 p.m.

By Treena Mielke / Ponoka News

Ponoka property owners can expect a small tax hike next year.

Town councillors, at their Dec. 14 meeting, gave the green light to an interim budget for 2011 of close to $17 million.

Town CAO Brad Watson said the final budget tax mill rate will be determined in April once requisitions have been received.

Council has, in the recent past, increased taxes slightly every year, he said.

“It’s prudent business practise to keep up with inflation and the annual cost of living and helps to eliminate the possibility of a major increase somewhere further down the line.”

The interim budget, which sees capital expenditures coming in at approximately $5.6 million and operating costs at just over $11 million, is down considerably from the 2010 budget that included more than $9 million in capital costs and more than $12 million in operational expenditures.

Watson said the lower budget adopted this year is reflective of fewer government grants available.

“Last year we were successful in obtaining several grants from the provincial and federal governments that were not available this year,“ he said..

The 2011 interim budget allocates $1.125 million to upgrade the town’s major sewage lift station. This is necessary to protect the key part of the town’s sewer system if the Battle River should flood, said Watson.

“The way it is now, we’re living on borrowed time if the Battle River should flood. More than half of the community would have very serious sewer problems if that should happen,” he said.

Spending used to upgrade the lift station will come from a government grant.

The next largest chunk of funding ($730,000) identified in the 2011 capital budget will go to public works projects. Of these dollars, $310,000 will be spent on sidewalk upgrading on 67 Street, $210,000 (covered by grant funding) will go toward walkway and landscaping work on 50 Street from 57 Avenue to Highway 2A. A total of $200,000, also covered by grant funding, has been earmarked for concrete replacement.

The budget has earmarked $435,000 ($130,000 covered by grant funding) to go toward renovations to the arena. The sports facility, which is now undergoing a major expansion, requires some upgrades including a new $108,000 condenser, said Watson.

“Some of these projects have been overlooked for some time,” he said.

Trail development within the town and throughout the county, allowing the town to hook into Lacombe County through the Trans Canada Trail System accounts for $325,000, of which $85,000 is covered by a grant.

A total of $240,000 will go toward the conversion of the old water treatment plant into the new Hudson Green Activity Centre.

Work on storm water management and water works, including water and sewer replacements in the back lane of 57 Avenue account for $395,000 (covered by a grant) of the interim budget.

Watson said some of the funding will go toward investigating ways to handle storm water to keep it from going into the sewer system.

The town is considering plans for a new civic centre and although no date has been set for the completion of the project, $100,000 has been set aside for preliminary design work. A total of $55,000 has been earmarked for computer equipment ($15,000) and town hall repairs ($40,000). It is anticipated that most of the repair work will be funded by a grant.

The protective services department and RCMP have $60,000 budgeted for general detachment building upgrades. Of these funds, $20,000 is covered through grant funding.

The community centre will receive a new $15,000 air conditioning unit, $5,000 will go to an air conditioning unit at the library, $35,000 has been earmarked for library roof repair. The electrical department will receive $20,000 for pole replacements and digital meter upgrades.

Council unanimously approved the interim budget.

Coun. Doug Gill said it is a futuristic budget.

“It’s like being on a farm and getting ready to go when the sun shines again. Our budget reflects that.”