The Town of Sylvan Lake’s 2015 operating and capital budgets were given final approval by council Monday night, along with a three-per-cent residential tax rate increase.
Operating and capital budgets were approved at $32,058,646 and $41,268,000, respectively.
Mayor Sean McIntyre said the budget has been discussed extensively not just among town councillors, but also in the public forum. Most feedback received has been positive, he said, but admitted there have been questions about increases to utility rates.
The water monthly flat rate is increasing by $7, from $15.91 to $22.91, while waste-water monthly flat rate is increasing by $3, from $13.33 to 16.33.
Waste will see a $1.93 increase to curb-side recycling for a $6.10 monthly rate; a $0.50 increase to commercial cardboard recycling for a $7 monthly rate; and a $4.33 increase to solid waste (garbage/yard/kitchen) for a $17.50 monthly rate.
First reading to both utility rate bylaws was given at Monday’s regular meeting.
All increases are necessary to fund important infrastructure upgrades. Once people learn that, they typically become more accepting to the increases, McIntyre explained.
Town communications officer Joanne Gaudet said all money generated through utility rates funds utility-based initiatives, required mainly as a result of aging infrastructure.
“We’ve got aging infrastructure, specifically related to water and waste-water,” she said. “Property taxes do not pay for these initiatives.”
Costly community-wide initiatives and projects include sanitary lift upgrades, sanitary main extensions, water well and reservoir work, and various replacement programs.
Storm replacement in certain areas of the community also come at a hefty price, said Gaudet, adding some residents have been troubled by the increases as a result of such upgrades.
“Unfortunately, there’s nothing tangible at the end of the day for a result,” she said. “People like to see a new sidewalk or they like to see a new park, and this is all stuff you can’t see. There’s nothing flashy about it.”
The upgrades aren’t just necessary, she added; they’re vital in order for the Town to continue providing clean potable water to its residents.
Utility rates alone aren’t enough to cover the cost of related projects, said Gaudet. Offsite levies generated through new development also contribute.
McIntyre said there’s been some confusion about where money generated through utility rates ends up, with some residents not knowing it funds utility-based initiatives.
Coun. Dale Plante felt including images of aging and rotting underground pipes with rate-related correspondence may have helped residents understand the need for such upgrades.
“These (increases) are not for profit,” he said. “All we’re doing is covering our cost here. Nobody likes increase, but we’re well within where we should be.”
Coun. Jas Payne agreed, noting he has a friend in another Alberta community who pays much higher rates there than in Sylvan Lake.
During council’s Monday night regular meeting, councillors also approved 2016 and 2017 budget plans.