Town reworks budget, eliminates proposed tax increase

The Town of Bonnyville passed its 2016 budget last week, nixing a proposed two percent tax increase and holding the line on the municipal tax rate.

“Initially when we did our interim operating budget we wanted to go with a two per cent increase, but because of the way the climate is right now with the tougher economy we held it to a zero per cent increase,” said Mayor Gene Sobolewski.

In order to keep the tax rate the same heading into 2016 the town had to reduce its proposed operating budget. Normally the town transfers excess revenue from operations over to capital, this year they kept the money in the operating budget to offset the lost tax dollars. A total of $411,574, which had been earmarked to be transferred to capital in the interim budget, was kept in operations.

“We were able to offset our capital because of the contributions we are getting from the MD; that was our saving grace or else we would have had a year were we wouldn’t do a lot of work,” said Sobolewski.

The town is receiving $1.9 million from the MD thanks to an inter-municipal cooperation agreement, which was signed earlier this year. The funding will allow the town to move forward with a series of infrastructure projects despite the reduction in their own revenue.

A $9.5 million capital budget was passed on April 20, with the over half of the money allotted to continuing the work on the west end of the 51st Ave.

Over $4.7 million was spent to overhaul the east position of 51st Ave. last year with construction causing the town major headaches. This year, they will be spending $4.8 million for construction on the west end, with hopefully less disruption.

“We are very hopeful that we are not going to see the same negative impacts that we saw last year. It is going to cost a little more but that is the way things go,” said Sobolewski.

A variety of smaller projects have also been listed including $1 million for sewer backup repair work on 52nd Ave., $275,000 for engineering on the new town hall, $159,000 for parking and washrooms at the splash park, and $138,000 to pave the alley behind the MD office building. The town will also be working with the MD to control the dust along Gurneyville Road and will see the bumps and cracks fixed on 46th St. beside Walsh Field.

“We are going to try and do the best we can with the limited resources that we have,” said Sobolewski.

Residents to see five per cent tax increase

Gene
Mayor Gene Sobolewski is worried some residents could see a hefty increase on their taxes this year.

While the Town of Bonnyville reworked their budget to ensure residents wouldn’t see a municipal tax increase, an escalation in provincial requisitions will result in locals seeing a rise in their taxes.

School taxes have surged by $471,672, a 14 per cent increase from 2015. Since the school portion makes up approximately 30 per cent of the local taxes, residents can expect to see a five to six per cent overall tax hike.

“When you see your tax bill look closely at the school tax. My taxes went up about five per cent and that was because of the school tax,” said Sobolewski.

The province calculates it school requisition based on an equalized assessment, which lags two years behind. The 2016 school taxes are being assessed based on July 1, 2014 numbers when there were more students in the community. The rest of the tax rates are set with statistics from July 1, 2015 when the economic downturn had begun.

“(The tax increase) is 100 per cent due to the current policies and budget of the provincial government and nothing else,” said Coun. Jim Cheverie.

“This provincial government is not taking into account the downturn in the Alberta economy when it comes to the total annual 2016 budget for education. They have not reduced it one penny. They have actually increased it. All of the taxpayers that are being burdened in this downturn are going to be burdened more by the decisions of the provincial government.”

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