Why have I been hearing about "Budget" so much?
Each year, every municipality is required by the Municipal Government Act to plan expenditures for the next year and pass an "Operational Budget" by the middle of December. The Operations Budget is the "day to day" cost of running the business and services in Town. Cutting the grass, managing parks and buildings, looking after roads, streets and alleys, having staff in the office to answer questions, do payroll, bill you for utilities and taxes, manage budgets and costs associated with Council are some examples of what is accounted for in the Operations Budget.
About 75% of the Operations Budget is staffing because the town needs people to do these tasks - and equipment, so there are fuel costs and maintenance costs for machinery and vehicles that are necessary to do this work. In 2014, the Operations Budget required $2,715,371 from taxes, which was a 2.94% increase in taxes from 2013.
Staff and Council also make a plan for a "Capital Budget". This is a "project budget". There are 50 - 60 year old pipes in the ground for water and wastewater that need replacement; there are sidewalks and roads that need to be repaired or replaced, and there are playgrounds and buildings that need to be updated to meet safety standards. Staff and Councils for many years have inventoried these items, prioritized a replacement plan, and budgeted a "reserve" contribution from taxes to save money to do the work in future years so there doesn't have to be as much borrowing to do replacement projects. Previous Councils have put "reserves" away for many of these "Capital" projects because borrowing money to do projects where ratepayers pay interest to get things done is not an acceptable business plan. Some of the money you pay in taxes is saved to do future projects that are part of a long range "Capital Plan".
Council is planning a 2-year budget with a 3.89% increase to taxes in 2015 and a 1.97% increase to taxes in 2016. Our goals are to keep taxes as low as possible while generating reserves to meet the needs of our long range Capital Replacement Plan, meet resident expectations for service and keep looking for ways to cut costs. For residential property owners with a $250,000 assessed property value (which is average in Sundre) will pay an extra $71.50 in 2015 and a further increase of $37.75 in 2016. A commercial property with an assessed value of $250,000 will see a yearly increase of $105.75 in 2015 and $55.55 in 2016.
The plan for "Capital Projects" in 2015 will see us spending $2,195,000 on our water and wastewater systems, gas system, parks, and other projects. In 2016, the "Capital Project" list will cost $1,162,000. Much of the money required to complete those projects will come from "reserves" and from grant money that comes from the provincial and federal governments. In 2015, we expect to put $246,070 in reserves for future projects and in 2016, the contribution to reserves from taxes will be $243,091, as we continue to put money away to pay for future projects to avoid borrowing wherever possible. A little over 1% of the increase in taxes goes toward saving for future projects.
I pulled my 2014 tax notice. My bill is $2721.56 for the year. If I take away the School requisition of $681.82 and the Mountain View Senior's Housing requisition of $40.20, my actual "Town of Sundre" tax bill is $1999.54 for all the programs, services and facilities I enjoy in the community I love and choose to live in. That is $5.48 per day. My "Town" taxes will go up 20 cents/day next year and 10 cents/day in 2016. My intent is not to make light of the difficulties and struggles many of us face at different times in our lives. These are facts and realities we face when we live in one of the most desirable places to live - on the planet.
Why do taxes go up? We are growing, which is a good thing - and there are some increasing costs for that growth. Costs keep going up is the short answer to that question. Our job, as Council and Staff, is to find the most efficient ways of providing services to you. Budgets can be a little complicated. If you have questions please call me at home at 403-638-3535 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk with Councillors and our CAO, Dave Dubauskas. We want to hear from you if you have questions or suggestions.
Mayor Terry Leslie