Town council voted in favour of a four per cent tax increase for the 2017 interim budget.
The decision came Nov. 22 during a regular meeting with little discussion, however, Coun. Tim Falkiner recused himself from the decision claiming conflict of interest due to his work with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.
The total $23.5 million budget —$16.6 million for operations and $6.9 million for capital — will see no cost of living increase for council and non-union staffs in 2017 and will see the suspension of the Community Peace Officer program and the elimination of the safety officer position. Falkiner stated it was for the latter that he recused himself.
Mayor Rick Bonnett asked if that was necessary and CAO Albert Flootman replied that there is some pecuniary interest for Falkiner. “I believe we have to respect his position,” said Flootman.
There was a second part to the interim budget approval; administration requested that council approve the number of full time and casual employees — 62.40 full time and 9.19 part time. Coun. Carla Prediger took some issue with the request stating that holding council to these numbers without seeing the actual positions.
Flootman replied the main reason is to show that these positions, once approved, shouldn’t be taken lightly. He added that a full list isn’t included mainly because what those positions roles are may change over time.
There was little discussion on the budget considering council spent almost three full days in budget deliberations at the beginning of the month. Ponoka News did report on the budget and deliberations in its Nov. 9 edition.
Utilities bylaw passes second reading
The town’s utilities bylaw is set to see an increase if council passes third reading.
For sewer a proposed five per cent increase, with a commodity increase $.02 per cubic metre, about $3.28 extra per month for 20 cubic metres.
For solid waste — which includes garbage and recycling — it goes up to $24.32 per month, up from $22.41.
Administration requested three readings on the bylaw, however, Coun. Teri Underhill and Falkiner voted against permission for third. The final reading will go to council’s next meeting Dec. 13.
Recreation committee to become a society
A notice of motion to see the recreation subcommittee become a de facto charitable organization was approved by council.
The request was to have the subcommittee, which is part of the Ponoka Recreation Advisory Committee, become a charitable organization or society to allow it to use money from fundraisers or donations specifically towards recreation in Ponoka.
Mayor Rick Bonnett supports the initiative, stating that there are times people want to put money or retirement towards recreation in town and having a society ensures that money goes where it is intended.
Council’s approval now allows the subcommittee to apply to have charitable status. It is believed the name will change to the Ponoka Recreation Foundation to serve town and county residents.
Christmas appreciation and holiday hours
Council approved a staff appreciation holiday gift for town employees.
The request is to show town staff appreciation for their work with $50 gift certificates from IGA or No Frills with a total value of $4,350.
In addition Town Hall holiday hours are being adjusted to the holiday schedule:
Dec. 23: the waste transfer station will be open with all other facilities closed at 1 p.m. The Aquaplex will begin its shut down and will reopen Jan. 9.
Dec. 25 and 26: statutory holidays with the waste transfer station open Dec. 26.
Dec. 31: only the arena will be open
Jan. 2: In lieu of the statutory holiday only the arena will be open.