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City posts $600K surplus

St. Albert posted an operating surplus of $600,000 for 2010 and most of it will go into a rainy day reserve.

St. Albert posted an operating surplus of $600,000 for 2010 and most of it will go into a rainy day reserve.

City council, sitting as the standing committee on finance, agreed Monday to transfer $500,000 to the stabilization reserve, which is for one-time, unforeseen expenses.

The surplus represents 0.5 per cent of the city’s $116-million budget.

“That’s pretty tight to the line budgeting from my perspective,” said chief financial officer Dean Screpnek. “Anything greater than that, there may be an opportunity to be a little tighter. I wouldn’t recommend being any tighter. All it takes is an unusual amount of snowfall to put the city in a deficit situation.”

The $500,000 transfer will top up the stabilization fund to its mandated level of $2.5 million. Council has already allocated about $500,000 in spending from that fund, Screpnek said.

The surplus comes on the strength of higher than projected revenue from several sources: $317,000 from Servus Credit Union Place, $265,000 in interest income and $168,000 from Fountain Park Recreation Centre.

The city also saved $305,000 in policing costs, due mainly to officers being seconded to the Olympics and the G20 meeting in Toronto.

The city also took in more property tax revenue, income from transit advertising and greater subdivision fees.

On the other side of the ledger, the police collected $395,000 less than anticipated in fines while the municipal enforcement branch missed the mark by $366,000. Ambulance costs were $250,000 more than budgeted and snow removal cost $163,000 more than budgeted.

The surplus comes in a year when the accounting rules have changed so it doesn’t compare well with previous years.

“I calculated it to be about $1 million, based on my understanding,” Crouse said.

Mayor Nolan Crouse requested an “apples to apples” comparison from administration.

Council agreed to administration’s recommendations for the year-end position, which included $419,000 be carried forward from operating reserves to the capital reserve. This is for projects on the books that haven’t been completed.

Crouse was concerned that the city has a number of projects approved and funded but not moving forward.

“I don’t want there to be seen to be excess cash,” he said.

Members of administration said there’s an explanation for each project that’s on the books.

“Every one of these projects has a story behind it,” said Chris Jardine, general manager of community and protective services.

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