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April 15th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 15
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Five things you should know
about the 2015 budget
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
The 2015 budget is here. At a meeting on April 7, council passed first reading of the Utility Rate Bylaw and the Property Tax Bylaw in preparation to adopt the budget and heard second and third readings at a special council meeting on April 14. Here are five things you need to know about the 2015 budget.

Taxes are going up
It looks like council will not be honouring its pledge to avoid an increase, as taxes are increasing by 2 per cent. This will generate an additional $140,000 in tax revenue, which will be offset by a $146,000 drop in the School foundation rate.
What those numbers means is a $4.98 cent increase in your [monthly] utility bill,” said Councillor Dean Ward.

The mill rate is going down
The mill rate is being decreased by 3.2 per cent.
The mill rate and the assessed value of properties are used to determine property taxes.
Ward explained that property values in the Pass increased by three per cent this year and there was a one per cent increase in new development.
“The mill rate had to increase or taxes would have gone up an additional three per cent,” wrote Ward in a recent blog post.

We’re spending on capital projects
The municipality will be investing about $15.4 million into capital projects. The major projects include $2 million for equipment replacement, $4.1 million for infrastructure replacement, 1$ million for road repairs and $5 million to upgrade the Frank Wastewater Treatment Plant.
continued below...


We’re dealing with a deficit
When the budget was first revealed April 2, the municipality had cash surplus of $21,542.
But after increasing the contribution to the stabilization reserve from one per cent to two per cent, the loss of the ACP operating grant and other factors, the budget was left with a deficit.
Last minute cuts to the Economic Development Committee, backcountry roads repairs, the Hillcrest Fire Hall and other programs reduced the deficit, which still stood at $128,000 at the time of publication.
CAO Sheldon Steinke explained that the Municipal Government Act requires the community to recoup the shortfall. The Pass can run a deficit for up to three years but it would need permission from Municipal Affairs and the minister would have the right to set the budget.

We’re spending most of our revenue on salaries, benefits and wages
In a handout prepared for council, Ward argued that payroll is taking up a growing portion of the municipality’s revenue despite tax increases that are averaging twice the rate of inflation.
He blamed payroll for the municipality’s budgetary deficit.
“We are working hard to squeeze a few dollars here and there from the Economic Development Committee, Hillcrest Fire Department, oiling roads, etc. when the real issue is the $6 million plus payroll,” wrote Ward.
The councillor compared the Pass with 15 other Albertan communities and found that only three other communities; MD of Pincher Creek, Canmore and Drayton Valley, have a higher cost per resident for municipal wages, salaries and benefits. According to the current 2015 budget draft, Pass residents will pay $1,121 in municipal salaries this year, a 13 per cent increase in two years.
But during budget discussions, council and administration were split over whether the municipality needs more staff, including a manager of planning to oversea new real estate development.
Council received the recommendation to hire a manager of planning to help the development officer manage land use in the community from the previous development officer, who resigned several months ago and has yet to be replaced. In his exit interview, he said he felt an absence of managerial support.
According to a municipal release, the planning manager would have a salary of $127,000.
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April 15th ~ Vol. 85 No. 15
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