The Town of Sylvan Lake recently under went budget deliberations to further finalize the 2017 Draft Budget.
Looking at last year’s budget projections, Town staff and Council say they had some tough decisions to make in 2017 due largely in part to the current economic climate.
During budget deliberations, Director of Finance for the Town of Sylvan Lake Darren Moore explained projects needed to be put on hold until 2018 or 2019 in order to ensure fiscal responsibility, adding Town staff had done a fair amount of ‘scalpel work’ on the budget to ensure it was as prudent as possible.
“This has been a challenging budget for us in that we had to cut projects out or delay them,” said Moore on the 2017 Budget. “We also had to change funding around from taxation to instead come out of reserves primarily because our projections for assessed growth dropped significantly. We’re looking at around $40 million for 2017 and our previous budget projection was $60 million. So it’s really affecting us.”
“We’re seeing market values dropping, around 4-5 per cent on average at this point. So certainly on the revenue side that is significant for us,” he explained.
Currently the 2017 draft budget proposes utility rate increases including a water flat rate increase of $7 per month, sanitary sewer flat rate increase of $3 per month and a sanitary sewer collection rate increase from $0.65 per cubic metre to $1.20 per cubic metre with consumption rates for water remaining unchanged.
Moore explained the utility rate raises were tough calls made my Town staff, however they are necessary to provide adequate financing for future waste water treatment following this summer’s situation at Town sewage lagoons - a crisis situation that came after the Town of Sylvan Lake was unable to perform its biannual release of treated effluent into Cygnet Creek from lagoons, thus finding the lagoons at capacity.
“We’ve been very fortunate for years in that our treatment system was very inexpensive to operate,” said Moore. “Now that we are heading to the regional system, the costs are going to go up and unfortunately that’s just the reality of the situation.”
Currently the Town is awaiting a decision from the government as to whether or not they will receive funding to support their move to a regional waste water line.
“If we do get approval, construction on that line will take the better part of two years,” he explained further. “We’re looking at two more summers that we will need extra measures in place to mitigate the problems we had this summer. So whether we are moving to the regional system or if we need to continue with our current system, either way we will incur extra costs in the future.”
He added the increased cost of utility rates will cover the mitigation of issues with current waste water challenges and allow them to prepare for the oncoming move to regional system.
Due to the current economic climate, a 0.2 per cent increase to residential and non-residential tax rates are being proposed for 2017. Last year a 2.96 per cent increase was proposed in 2017 for residential properties and a 1.89 per cent increase for non-residential properties. Town staff will see a 1% wage increase effective July 1,2017.
Prior to the 2017 Budget being passed Town staff and Town Council will be available to discuss the proposed budget during Regular Meetings of Council in addition to a special ‘Coffee & Cupcakes With Council Budget Open House’ event being hosted on Nov. 29. at Sugar Belle Cakery from 4:30pm to 7:30 p.m.
Joanne Gaudet, Communications Officer for the Town of Sylvan Lake explained Coffee & Cupcakes With Council is a great way for residents to discuss any concerns in an informal and effective manner.
“The event is always well attended and it’s a great way for residents to have their voices heard. Everyone is welcome to attend,” said Gaudet.
Following a budget deliberation meeting held on Saturday at the Municipal Building, the draft budget will be brought forward at the next Regular Meeting of Council where the mayor and councillors will vote to approve the 2017 draft budget, after which an overview will be circulated to residents to ensure adequate time for feedback from Lakers. Final budget approval is planned to take place at the Regular Meeting of Council on December 12th.