Ponoka town council approved its 2021 interim capital and operating budgets during their regular council meeting on Nov.24, following two days of budget deliberations on Nov. 18 and 19.
The total amount of the interim budget is $27,045,310, which includes an operating budget of $19,265,910 and a capital budget of $7,779,400, according to a news release.
The town estimates the 2021 municipal property tax increase may be about 1.2 per cent, but explains it’s too early to say for certain as the exact rate can’t be calculated until property tax assessments are completed in the spring. The town will also review the 2021 budget prior to adopting the final budget.
“This is a fiscally responsible budget that recognizes the challenges facing our economy,” said Mayor Rick Bonnett in the release.
“It balances the need to continue carefully managing spending and to keep taxes as low as possible with the need for a very minimal tax increase to cover the cost of inflation this year while continuing to focus on growth, investing in key infrastructure, and maintaining the many day-to-day essential services our citizens rely on.”
“This budget recognizes that our economy is still struggling while also positioning our community to grow and thrive and develop opportunities for the future,” said Sandra Lund, interim CAO.
“It also aligns very well with Council’s strategic priorities for growth, the economic health of our community, and enhanced quality of life for our citizens.”
Lund says the majority of capital and infrastructure projects in the budget are funded through provincial and federal grant funding.
Capital and infrastructure projects planned for 2021 include:
- Redevelopment of 51 Ave. between 50 and 51 St. including redevelopment of underground and surface infrastructure and streetscape design;
- Roadway and drainage rehabilitation and improvements on 64 St. at the south end of the Froman Business Park between 42 and 44 Ave., completing a three-year redevelopment project that will include a newly paved roadway;
- Paving and concrete replacement and repairs on numerous streets throughout Ponoka as part of the town’s annual Roadway Infrastructure Improvement Program;
- A new ice plant at the Ponoka Arena Complex replacing the existing ice plant which has reached the end of its lifecycle. The new plant will be located in an exterior building for improved safety, which also allows it to be moved once a new Community Wellness Centre is constructed;
- Trail improvements and wayfinding signage that will include a new paved walking trail along 50 St. and Hwy. 53 that directly connects the pedestrian bridge located across from the Battle River Medical Clinic to the arena (and future Community Wellness Centre);
- Park design improvements at Lions Centennial Park and for an expanded skate board park and pump track. The new park design improvements will include public consultation. Construction will occur in the future based on preferred designs;
- Completion of a comprehensive site master plan for a Community Wellness Centre in Ponoka, using all existing and new information. A wellness centre continues to be a key town council priority for future community growth. The master plan will determine the overall placement of site improvements, including surface improvements, buildings, utilities and other site features;
- Maintenance improvements to the arena and Aquaplex which include resurfacing the pool deck and wading pool and spatial planning at the Aquaplex to allow for better utilization of lobby and office space at the facility; and
- Waterworks and electrical maintenance improvements, including equipment rehabilitation at town pump stations and reservoirs, ongoing sanitary sewer system maintenance, and planning and analysis for future improvements to the town’s sewage treatment plant.
Council approved the transfer of $261,560 from the 2019 operating surplus to help minimize the municipal property tax increase for 2021. Operational costs in the budget were also offset by $150,000 from the Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST), a provincial grant that reimburses municipalities for lost revenue and expenditures related to COVID-19.
The town states that the interim budgets align with feedback receives from residents during its annual consultation process.
The top priorities identified from the consultation included new or improved recreation or sports facilities; improving and maintaining Town infrastructure; economic development and growth; and fiscal responsibility.
– With a file from the Town of Ponoka