If residents want a say in the Town of Ponoka’s budget process, now is the time to do it.
Town council and administration have opened up the discussion asking residents what they see as a priority for the 2019 budget. Along with a survey that can be accessed on the Town of Ponoka website, an open house was held Oct. 4 at the Kinsmen Community Centre.
Mayor Rick Bonnett spoke with Ponoka News about what this budget will look like and what residents are saying. “I’ve heard over the last six or eight months that we’ve raised taxes the last few years.”
“We’re still in a pretty tight recession and people would like some tax relief,” he added.
He suggests the recession has also affected all three levels of government and policy makers are struggling to make budgets work.
“I’d like to see a lot more efficiencies in place and I guess that’s something that we’ll work on in this budget,” said Bonnett.
He pointed out that the town has had several major projects completed in recent years and he wants to see one more, and that is to get the field house in place.
“It used to be you could build a building for $2 or $3 million but now it takes $15 to $25 to $35 million,” he explained. “A small town cannot afford to do those kind of huge infrastructure projects.”
Bonnett referred to the province’s recent decision to use MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) funding to support building the field house. Ponoka County had showed its support for the initiative until the province announced how it would support the project.
The mayor is focussing on advocating the province to join a split funding program for the field house that would also see the federal government and the town, along with the county splitting the cost.
“We’re just trying to get what our citizens have been asking for in the last 12 years,” he said.
Bonnett feels keeping things status quo is not ideal. “If we don’t develop and we don’t grow, we can’t afford to keep doing what we’re doing, there’s no doubt about it.”
When it comes to the large annual lease payment for the new civic centre, Bonnett is not worried, suggesting that administration is prepared for the cost in its budgeting.
As for council’s focus, Bonnett suggests that elected officials are working together. Coun. Kevin Ferguson agreed.
“Even in the heat of a disagreement there’s always a willingness by everyone to try to reach a consensus,” said Ferguson.
“We don’t always agree but we’re always pulling in the same direction,” he added.
Deliberations between council and administration is set for Nov. 21 and 22.