Ponoka town council passed a $25.5 million 2019 capital and operating budget along with a 2.2 per cent residential property tax increase during its regular meeting May 14.
In three separate motions, council approved the 2019 budget, the town’s full time employee staffing compliment of 70.89, and a 2.1 per cent cost of living adjustment for management and council.
The $25, 524, 319 budget includes an operating budget of $18,605,124 and a capital budget of $6,919,195.
The tax increase amounts to $17 per $100,000 of residential property assessment and $22 per $100,000 for commercial properties.
According to the town, the tax increase is in line with the current rate of inflation and the budget balances the need to keep taxes low while investing in infrastructure and growth.
“It’s a budget that recognizes our economy is still struggling. However, once the economy finally turns the corner, this budget also positions the town for growth,” said Mayor Rick Bonnett in a press release.
The 2019 budget includes a $17,000 transfer from the general benefit reserve to pay for the town’s remaining commitment for the 2019 Canada Winter Games, $65,000 for splash park upgrades from the Federal Gas Tax fund (FGT) and $50,000 for the Lucas Heights reservoir from MSI.
There is also $100,000 allocated for “studies, designs or strategy work” for a new field house.
The budget includes amounts for updating key infrastructure, which is largely funded through provincial and federal grant funding.
Projects planned for 2019 include replacement of the underground infrastructure on 52 Ave. between 50 and 51 St., roadway rehabilitation and repairs on 64 St. at the south end of the Froman Business Park between 42 and 44 Ave. and road maintenance on 54 St. north of Ponoka Secondary Campus between 62 and 63 Ave.
There will also be concrete replacement and paving repairs on numerous streets throughout Ponoka as part of the town’s annual concrete replacement and paving program.
The 2019 budget replenishes some of the reserve funds used in past budgets. A total of $42,000 was transferred to the contingency reserve, replacing half of what was used in 2017 to offset 2017 property taxes.
The water utility reserve received a transfer of $229,000 for future capital requirements.
After the 2017 budget audit, a surplus of $467, 000 was realized. Council voted during its May 14 meeting to transfer $437,000 of the surplus into the general benefit reserve and $30,000 into the computer reserve.
Currently in the computer reserves, there is a capital project in the books for $30,000 for replacing major IT infrastructure, such as a remote backup server and updating the website and the creation of an app for the town.
The 2019 budget also includes the compost program for kitchen waste that was launched in 2019 (with no extra utility costs to residents), $150,000 in a federal grant funding for trail improvements such as completing trail connections, funding to develop an economic development strategy and funding to continue plans to develop the one-acre park on the old hospital site and a conceptual plan for a civic plaza on the old town hall site.
Council also passed the tax bylaw during the May 14 meeting.