Meadow Lake council approves 2013 budget
by Phil Ambroziak
Just because you have the money doesn’t mean it has to burn a hole in your pocket.
This was the opinion shared by members of Meadow Lake city council May 13 when the group gave formal approval to its 2013 municipal budget.
As reported last week, the budget includes $13,768,245 in overall revenue and 13,762,553 in expenses, resulting in a slim surplus of $5,692. Revenue is broken down to include money generated from taxes, grants, service fees and other sources while expenses include costs associated with such services as government, transportation, protection, environment, health and welfare and more.
Major capital projects scheduled for this year include the new sewer lift station on 9th Avenue West, paving of the city’s new subdivision and upgrades to the Charpentier Place sewer main among others. A couple budget items in particular, however, resulted in some discussion amongst local legislators during last week’s meeting.
“I still have concerns regarding fire hall maintenance and training costs,” remarked deputy-mayor Elaine Yaychuk. “I’d like to figure out what we’re spending there.”
In this year’s budget, $105,000 has been earmarked for these items alone.
In a subsequent interview, Yaychuk said the fire department’s budget has increased substantially.
“We have to be very careful with that,” she said. “A lot of other departments also have big needs, so we can’t single one out from the others. I believe the fire department’s budget was something like $78,000 the last couple years, now it’s $105,000. If the budgets for all departments went up that much, we’d really have to raise taxes.”
During the meeting, councillor Curtis Paylor asked if the department would work at keeping costs in this area as low as possible.
“Or, because this amount has been approved, will they work to meet that target?” he wondered.
Paylor went on to say the city works with a skeleton budget, adding he would appreciate if the message was sent to all staff members to keep costs as low as possible.
Mayor Gary Vidal said he was prepared to approve the budget as presented, as long as a strong message was sent to the various department heads reminding them not all money allotted to them has to be spent this year alone.
“If things come in under-budget for them, it means more (money) for next year,” he said.
“It gives us some room to wiggle somewhere else,” Paylor added.
Also approved May 13 was a bylaw calling for a change in mill rates, with both commercial and agriculture properties set at 1.495, residential properties set at 0.714 and multi-unit residential properties at 0.88.
Furthermore, the minimum tax to be charged to all residential properties with improvements to their dwellings will be $650 per year, $125 less than in 2012.
Levesque said, in order to promote fairness in the property tax system, the city will be implementing a base tax and a minimum tax this year.
“This will cause some minor shifting from higher assessed houses to homes that are in the middle range of assessments,” he said.
During the meeting, first reading was also given to a bylaw calling for a $75 flat tax per each residential and multi-unit residential property. This money will be placed in a separate reserve and later used for funding the proposed long-term care facility in Meadow Lake.
“I’m in favour of this – we need to start somewhere,” Yaychuk said.
News of the city’s efforts to raise money for the facility was well received by Prairie North Regional Health Authority officials.
“We’ve known all along Meadow Lake has had some challenges, but this is good news in terms of raising money to help complete the project and I applaud the city’s efforts,” stated Lionel Chabot, vice-president of finance and operations with PNRHA.
The city and the RM of Meadow Lake are responsible for funding 20 per cent ($5.8 million) of the $29 million project. According to the 2013 budget, the long-term care levy would generate $117,000.
“We still don’t know how it’s all going to work out, but it’s good they have a plan,” Chabot said.