Morinville residents will soon be able to provide their input into the 2013 budget, which proposes a two per cent increase in residential and non-residential property taxes.
Town council passed first reading of the 2013 operating and capital budget last Wednesday. The budget is now a public document and open for discussion.
The proposed operating budget totals $11 million while capital projects are expected to cost $3.6 million. The operating budget includes $430,000 in operational projects.
One such project is a fire succession plan, expected to cost $30,000. The plan looks to make the fire chief a paid position rather than a volunteer one. Another operational project in the draft budget is $120,000 for conceptual designs for a new Morinville arena.
Morinville’s main expenditure remains staffing costs. The town employs 60 full-time staff members. Salaries and wages are expected to go up by about $300,000 in 2013.
Despite concerns in previous years that Morinville employs too many staff members, director of financial services Andrew Isbister said the town has fewer staff than other communities in the region.
“We don’t think we have an overabundance of staff and we look to have the right number of staff to do the jobs that people want,” he said.
“We are looking at a regular salary increase and one additional person that would start in April and that’s the economic development director.”
Isbister said the community and council would like to see more economic development and new businesses coming to town. The item was in previous budgets but was cut out.
He added that taxes generated by new development would help pay for the new position.
“Over the last number of years economic development has been an issue within the town in that most of our tax base is residential property,” he said.
“If we can get someone into this with a little bit of a budget to go with, they can go out and look at perhaps attracting a hotel into town.”
For an average homeowner paying $1,800 in municipal taxes, this would mean an increase of $36 dollars a year.
Isbister said the increase is required to meet additional commitments. If council disapproved of the tax increase, the town would have to take the money out of its budget.
“Which would probably mean that there would be some reduced services. Streets may not be cleaned as often in the winter,” he said.
Overall, Isbister said the town is in a good financial position and did not take a lot of money from its reserves in past years. The town is now looking to cut money in reserves to use toward projects and to keep taxes lower.
Based on estimates, the 2013 budget will take almost $980,000 from operational reserves, leaving an estimated $8,210.
To give Morinville residents better input to the budgeting process, council will hold two open houses on Nov. 6 and Nov. 8.
As part of the regular council meeting on Nov. 13, council also invites the public to raise questions and make comments in the 2013 budget public forum. Those wanting to make a presentation must contact administration prior to the forum.
Second reading of the budget will take place Nov. 17, with a possible third reading taking place on the same day. If delayed, third reading will be held on Dec. 11.
Amendments to the budget can be made prior to its second and third reading.
Residents can also provide comments on the budget by email or through the Town of Morinville website. Further information will be made available on the website in the coming weeks.