December 23rd, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 50
Councillor Ward delays passing of municipal budget
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Pass Herald Reporter
After their last budget meeting on Dec. 11 council was considering a six per cent increase in municipal taxes next year plus a 10 per cent increase in utility rates.

Councillor Dean Ward said they had been trying to reduce the tax and utility rates so they could pass the 2016 budget prior to Christmas but they didn’t come to a consensus.

At a meeting on Dec. 15, Ward argued against passing the budget until more cuts could be made to the operating budget.

Ward said the amount of money collected by the Municipality from taxes increased from about $5.1 million in 2006 to a proposed $7.3 million in 2016. In addition, in 2009 the municipality began collecting franchise fees, which increased from $296,000 in 2009 to $908,000 in 2016.

The total revenue the municipality collects has gone from about $5.1 million in 2006 to about $8.2 million proposed for 2016, a 60 per cent increase at a rate of almost 6 per cent a year.

In 2010 utility bills were $59.37 a month, said Ward. Council is considering a proposal to increase them to $83.57 in 2016, which also an average increase of 6 per cent per year.
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“In an attempt to demonstrate my concerns that the taxpayers have been paying what seems like never ending increases in taxes, fees and utility rates,” said Ward. “I presented the following numbers that are all public and accessible to anybody that would take a little time to research them.”

Mayor Blair Painter said he should have been given numbers before the council meeting.

“I wish I would have had this a little bit earlier so I could prepare a rebuttal to these numbers that you have here,” said Painter. “It leaves me a little disadvantaged.

Painter later pointed out that compared to many other communities, the Pass’ utility rates are quite low. Ward concurred but said he does not favour an increase in utilities.

“The question that’s always on my mind is, how much can our taxpayers afford?” said Ward. “Unlike other communities we have a population made up of more than 50 per cent seniors, most of whom live on a fixed income. We all know our largest employer and the economy in general face difficult times.”
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Council agreed to delay finalizing the 2016 budget until after an additional budget meeting on Jan. 7, which gives them a few more weeks to look at the numbers. Some councillors spoke about making additional cuts to the operating budget. The budget process is not closed until after the mill rate is passed.

“At the end of the day I will support council's decision on this budget but until we get there, I believe we have to look at every option to minimize the impact on the taxpayers of our community,” said Ward.
December 23rd ~ Vol. 85 No. 50
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