Ponoka residents will see their taxes increase by six per cent for 2018.
Town council approved the $25 million budget on March 27 during the regular meeting, which also saw an increase to the town’s utility rates.
A break down of the budget shows the town sits with $17.8 million in operating and $7.4 million in capital spending with residents seeing an increase of about $43 per $100,000 of assessment. For commercial properties that number is about $56 per $100,000 of assessment.
The town’s overall assessment increased by $20 million from 2017. “This consists of $9 million of new assessment and market increase of $11.6 million due to inflation,” states the town’s budget preamble.
Areas of major focus for this budget brought consideration for the new learning centre with $727,000 set aside. Of that, $125,000 comes from the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding.
Another $1.34 million is tentatively being set aside for what is being dubbed as the wellness centre (or field house), which expands the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex. This was possible from a bit of a windfall from the province but it’s unclear how it will eventually come to the town.
“They’re releasing an additional funding this year. It’s just over $1 million,” said Sandra Lund, director of corporate services.
“We can’t directly put the money into a reserve.”
“This is strictly for capital projects only,” explained Mayor Bonnett, saying that council can’t reduce the tax increase with MSI funds.
A preliminary design of the field house is phase 1 of the project, which proposes the full project be done in four total phases, which is dependent on funding as it becomes available. This includes enhancements to the current building (phase 2), a new aquatics facility (phase 3), and a new community centre (phase 4).
MSI on its way out
The initiative was started in 2007 and was meant to only go for 10 years, explained Bonnett.
In hearing from the province, Bonnett believes the MSI funding may continue until 2021 but that’s not a guarantee. What is for certain, is that it is coming to an end relatively soon.
New part time bylaw officer
The town has approved a new part time bylaw officer at about $60,000 per year, which includes the associated costs for the contract position.
Hearing residents’ desire for a proper bylaw officer program, council approved this new program, which is intended to bring education to residents on town bylaw issues. However, if there are repeat offenders, enforcement will be the next step, states the town.
Another area the town accessed funds was from projects at a stand still.
Council directed administration cancel the $166,000 MSI funding for the Hudson Green Nature and Activity Centre. For now it appears there’s no major plans for the Hudson Green property.
Ponoka’s water fees to increase
The North Red Deer Water Commission, of which the town is a member, informed the town that water rates will increase by 4 cents per cubic metre in 2018. The last time the water changed was in 2014.
To adjust for the change, residents’ consumption rates have increased to $2.69 from $2.65 per cubic metre.
“These increases are required to generate enough income to fund operations and for current and future capital projects,” states the town’s preamble to council.
Garbage will also increase.
The town’s contract with Green for Life will see the flat rate for garbage pick up increase to $26, up from $24.32. This includes $6.48 for recycling.
Couple that with sewer increases the average user should see close to $5 increase in their utility bill.
A correction was made to this story to clarify that the $1.34 million in MSI funding tentatively set aside for the wellness centre is actually the additional $1 million provided by the province. There was no other shuffling of funds. In addition, the bylaw officer is actually a contract position and the money for the program is to pay for the services. We regret the error.