Public budget meeting brings taxpayers’ concerns to forefront

Discrepancy between the mill rate and the actual tax increase was a hot topic at Thursday’s budget talks.

Discrepancy between the mill rate and the actual tax increase was a hot topic at Thursday’s budget talks.

Just over a dozen people filled the council chambers, and only budget related questions were entertained by council and staff.

Jim Moore from the Rimbey Ratepayers Association pointed out the mill rate has, in fact, increased by 1.5 per cent, but the total tax bill is much higher.

“It’s a bit deceiving to hear it on the news. 1.5 per cent seems like nothing,” said Moore.

Mayor Rick Pankiw said he took full responsibility for the statement, which acting CAO Melissa Beebe clarified as being correct.

Beebe said the municipal mill rate is a 1.5 per cent increase, the same as 2013,” she said. “However, the education requisition came in two per cent higher for residential (properties) and jumped three per cent for non-residential.”

“The municipal mill rate or municipal tax increase is 1.5, which is the same as last year. However, when you add those together, the tax increase will be higher, but it’s not our increase. The municipal portion has gone up 1.5 which is comparable with the rate of inflation.”

Moore told the mayor and council they did know the assessed property value of residents when the budget was created, he said.

Later, Beebe said that was correct, but the town has no control over the assessed value of property.

“The market value and assessed value is the same thing and it is determined by an independent contracted assessor. Everyone has the right to appeal if they are not happy with their assessment,” she added.

Snow removal was also discussed at some length. It was determined the town had spent about $75,000 on snow removal including the purchase of a new loader and blower.

Public works foreman Rick Schmidt said it was a purchase long overdue.

“It should have been made prior to this. The loader alleviated a lot of extra work.”

The method of hauling snow should be looked at, suggested someone from the audience.

“I can haul as much snow in my wheelbarrow as you can in those trucks,” he said.

Pankiw said council wants to determine from the public if the level of service for the snow removal was adequate and if they should continue with that level of service in the future.

He added the (Provincial) government has set aside funding for a natural disaster.

However, resident Gayle Rondeel noted there is criteria before a disaster can be declared.

“We would still go to them for help (before that level is reached),” said Rondeel.

Pankiw clarified that $144,000 has been budgeted for wages for a new CAO. The closing date for applications was March 20.

He also explained the $50,000 earmarked for the chamber is to be put on hold until they come up with a business plan involving the incubator program.

“Until that time it stays with the town,” he said.

Money has not been earmarked in reserves for the library, but Pankiw said council is meeting with board soon to discuss future plans.

Pankiw said he was pleased with the budget meeting.

“There was more questions on the budget than we have ever had.”

The public was also invited to discuss the budget Friday from noon to 2 p.m.