Council dissects proposed 2016 budget

Rimbey town council is now in the budget process and has plans to rubber stamp the 2016 budget in February.

Rimbey town council is now in the budget process and has plans to rubber stamp the 2016 budget in February.

Acting CAO Donna Tona said there was no new assessment in 2015.

“We didn’t grow,” she said. “It is good that the assessment did not decrease, but it did not increase either.”

A zero increase in the residential and commercial tax base means council has to be innovative in ensuring tax dollars are used wisely and efficiently, Tona said.

“You can’t do more with less. We need to think in terms of services levels, not money.”

On Dec. 21 the town passed an interim budget which was put in place until this year’s budget is given the green light.

The interim budget is the same as last year’s $6 million budget.

As interim CAO Dona Tona’s salary for a three-day work week is $76,000. Tona works on a contract basis.

Last year the mayor’s income was $19,800 and councillors’ salaries averaged $13,623. The deputy mayor’s income was$ 14,823.

Council met on Saturday to discuss some major budget concerns which will, no doubt, affect the upcoming budget.

Composting is one issue that needs to be put under the microscope, said Tona.

She said the town is only recovering 4.33 per cent of composting costs.

“It is costing us $28,000 to pick up composting and we only have 30 customers,” she said. “That tells me the majority of the town residents are either grass recycling, self composting or taking it to the transfer station.”

The future of the splash park also needs to be addressed, said Tona.

The town shells out $258,000 to run the aquatic centre and recoups only 29.9 per cent of those expenses.

“The splash park has not worked properly since day one,” she said. “We have to decide what we are going to do with it.”

Tona is pleased with the town’s snow removal policy although she admits there has been little snowfall this year to test it out.

However, she noted that using the town’s new snow blower to its full capacity has proved to be efficient.

“Town crews have been working at night to ensure the snow is managed this year. Using the snow blower is a cheaper and more efficient method or sure.”

Also up for discussion is a proposed $4 million capital budget.

Digging a new water well and a related study accounts for $2.2 million, although those dollars could be recouped through a provincial grant.

Tona said the reason for the new well was determined last year when a study of well 13 proved there could be some future concerns with the aquifer.

“We are not prepared to take chances with the town’s drinking water,” said Tona. “We need to go ahead with a new well and if the grant does not come through, we will need to borrow the money.”

Other projected capital expenses include a new mower and sidewalk snow cleaning tractor for $118,000, air conditioning for the public works office, maintenance for the zamboni, a wheelchair ramp in the arena and a new roof for the Peter Lougheed Community Centre.

Upgrades to the main water reservoir pump house, waste water composite samplers and a new tandem truck, sidewalk replacement and repairs to the RCMP building are also included in the proposed capital budget.