Councillors put their heads together and hashed out numbers Saturday to finalize a budget which will determine not only a tax bill for Rimbey ratepayers, but decisions about capital and operational expenditures.
For the last few weeks the town has been working with an interim budget, but with the new year well underway, a new budget will soon be in place.
Mayor Rick Pankiw said he believes the new budget will be “a good news budget,” with tax increases kept to a minimum. He said town staff and council have brought their wish lists to the table so budget deliberations can proceed. While Pankiw wasn’t ready to divulge the particulars or the dollar figures, he said much of the groundwork has been covered.
“We are prepared,” he said. “Our wish lists are done and I believe we’ve covered off priority items. We are ready to proceed within our means.”
Last year Rimbey’s $6.17 million budget showed expenditures of $5 million leaving a healthy surplus of $797,000. Last year’s tax bill increased minimally by 1.5 per cent with the average tax bill showing about a $31 increase. The increase was largely due to assessed values of commercial property which had gone up by almost 30 per cent in the last five years.
Pankiw said this year’s tax increase will also depend on assessments.
“I truly believe there will be a minimal tax increase, though,” he said.
Pankiw said council is looking at a new way to communicate this year’s budget to the public.
Previously, a budget meeting has been held at the Rimbey Community Centre with copies of the budget available and the mayor and council on hand to answer any questions or concerns.
However, Pankiw doesn’t believe that approach is the best one.
“The last three years that I’ve attended budget meetings, the budget seems to be the least of concerns for the people attending. They get derailed and go off on things that have nothing to do with budget. It doesn’t get discussed, but everything else does.”
As an alternative to holding a public budget meeting, Pankiw said council is looking at presenting the budget in the Rimbey Review.
By using the newspaper as a way of providing public information, anyone who has concerns or questions about the budget would be welcome to attend a council meeting and speak at an open mike session.
A final decision as to how to present the budget to council was made Saturday at the budget meeting.