Tuesday, January 25, 2011  
   Volume 81 - Issue 4 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“You might leave on your adventure at plus 5, but temperatures change, and you could be looking at minus 20 by the end of the day.”
- Jeff Smith  
- CNP Rescue   
At the January 18th council meeting, Council voted to amend the proposed 2011 Operating Budget, which included a proposed tax levy increase of 5.3 per cent.
Chief Administrative Officer Tully Clifford attributed the increase to the need for: an increased municipal advertising budget, new carpet for the municipal office, hiring of additional municipal staff, construction of a storage facility for the Hillcrest Fire Department, full time programming for recreation facilities and FCSS, and increased funding requests from community organizations, among other items.
Each member of Council voiced their concern and discomfort with the proposed tax increase.
Councillor Brian Gallant said he would like to see a zero per cent tax increase, noting that higher taxes deter businesses.
“We are coming out of a recession, and coming into a time when we need to spur growth,” said Gallant. “Increasing taxes deters new businesses and people from moving here, and that is what we need right now.”
“We are an expensive place to live, and our tax base is decreasing as a result of that.”
Mayor Bruce Decoux said that Councillor Gallant’s comments were somewhat short-sighted.
“We have to spend money in order to keep up infrastructure and facilities, in order to attract new families and businesses to our community,” said Decoux. “We have to set foundations for the future, and attempting to lower property taxes is the wrong way to go.”
Councillor Jerry Lonsbury also voiced his discomfort with the idea of not increasing taxes.
“This municipality has a long history of hold-the-line budgets,” said Lonsbury. “We’ve managed to hold the line, but now we’re not going anywhere.”
“I think that a tax increase is not out of line.”
Councillor Larry Mitchell noted that most of the increase in taxes comes as a result of the proposed water metering system, and acquisition of a new track hoe, which was echoed by other Councillors.
Clifford informed Council that the cost for the water meters would not come out of the tax increase, but out of reserves.
“Removing that program would not affect the tax increase,” said Clifford.
He also insisted on the municipality’s need for the track hoe, noting that other equipment has become dilapidated and is now falling apart.
He noted that the cost of purchasing the machine, approximately $230,000, would be significantly less than the cost of hiring one on a contract basis each time the municipality needed the service.
“We feel that piece of equipment will pay for itself many times over,” he said.
Alternatively, Clifford suggested that in order to reduce the task increase, the municipality reject the proposal for an increase of $30,000 for Thunder in the Valley policing, reject increased funding requests from community organizations, remove $30,000 from the municipal advertising budget, and that the new municipal carpet, new tables and chairs for Councillors, tiling in the swimming pool, parade float, municipal generator, water metering, and two part-time staff positions all be eliminated.
“That would bring the tax increase down to between 1.1 per cent and 4.3 per cent,” said Clifford.
Councillor Emile Saindon proposed the idea of increased user fees for community recreation facilities such as the Albert Stella Memorial Arena, Crowsnest Sports Complex, swimming pool, and ski hill, which account for a large portion of the budget.
“We can’t continue to support facilities and programs that maybe 20 per cent of the population use, but 100 per cent of the population have to pay for,” said Saindon. “The people who want to use those facilities should have to pay a fair price.”
Clifford said it would be nice to see the public made aware of the costs of running facilities like the swimming pool, and how much it costs to maintain infrastructure such as roads, so that they can better understand the need for increased taxes.
After much discussion, Councillor Andrew Saje made a motion to amend the budget to include the following conditions: that the track hoe be removed from the budget, municipal records archiving be suspended, desktop replacement costs be reduced to $10,000, software upgrades be reduced to $12,000, funding for the parade float be reduced to $5,000, all departments reduce operating expenses by 7 per cent, no full time employees be hired during the 2011 fiscal year, pay increases not exceed 2 per cent for the fiscal year, a maximum of $25,000 be applied across all departments for municipal advertising requirements, and a budget of $65,000 be used for rebranding and updating of the municipal web site.
The motion was defeated 6-1, as Council was uncomfortable with voting in favour of all of the proposed changes.
Councillor Jerry Lonsbury then moved to table the discussion until the January 25th Governance and Priorities Committee Meeting as a special meeting of Council, for further discussion.
The motion was approved unanimously.
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   Volume 81 - Issue 4 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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