BARRHEAD - County of Barrhead councillors approved an interim operating budget of $10 million during their Dec. 17 meeting, which will fund the municipality’s day-to-day operations until the 2020 operating budget can be finalized.
County manager Debbie Oyarzun said the Municipal Government Act (MGA) requires the county to adopt an operating budget each year, but allows the municipality to approve an interim budget until the formal budget is completed.
Oyarzun said the county previously adopted a $10 million interim budget in 2018 and 2019. The final budgets for those years ended up being $15.775 million and $16.425 million respectively.
Notably, the interim budget contains none of the priority projects for 2020 that councillors discussed during a budget workshop in the fall.
If certain priorities had to move forward before the formal budget was approved, those items would come to council, Oyarzun said. “We know that we are in a tight budget period, and we need that fiscal responsibility,” she added.
Council unanimously voted to approve the Barrhead Public Library’s 2020 operating budget of $359,847, which includes a contribution of $121,700 from the county.
The county’s contribution to the library is based on a per capita rate of $18.44, as well as 50 per cent of the library’s utilities. In other words, the county’s per capita funding is $115,950 and their share of the utilities is $5,750.
Oyarzun noted the county’s contribution has not changed from 2019. Historically, the county has used the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) operating grant to fund its contribution to the library.
In addition to approving the library’s operating budget, council also approved the library’s three-year operating plan.
Councillors approved the 2020 operating budget for the Barrhead Regional Airport which will see the municipality contribute $21,326.
Oyarzun said the airport budget was originally brought to the joint council meeting with the Town of Barrhead on Dec. 9, where it was recommended that the budget go to the respective municipal councils for ratification.
The 2020 operating budget equals $53,827. With the town and county each contributing $21,326, the remaining $11,175 in revenue will come from leases and hangar/tie down fees.
Coun. Bill Lane asked if the airport committee — which includes councillors Marvin Schatz and Darrell Troock as members — has looked at other small airports to see what they pay in terms of hangar fees.
Schatz, who chairs the committee, indicated a number of hangar agreements are set to expire in 2021 and he figured they could look at what other airports charge in terms of hangar fees then.
Council also approved the 2020 capital budget, which will see the county and town both contribute $30,000, along with the airport committee’s three-year operating plan and 10-year capital plan.
Council approved a new five-year contract with the numbered company owned and operated by Doug Smith to provide assessment services for the county.
Councillors also passed a motion to appoint Doug Smith as the assessor. Notably, he has acted in this role since 1997.
Oyarzun noted their current contract with Smith expires right at the end of January.
“We just want to get out ahead of this, because there is work required right at the beginning of the year … We wanted to ensure we had an assessor in place,” she added.
Director of finance and administration Tamara Molzahn was very much in support of Smith continuing to act as the assessor “just for that continuity and understanding of the (county’s) processes,” Oyarzun said.
Incidentally, assessment services cost the county $149,347 in 2019. The contract with Smith’s company would start at $151,587 in 2020 and increase to $160,889 in 2024.
Oyarzun suggested that cost may come down depending on what happens with a hybrid contract with Alberta Municipal Affairs for assessment of designated industrial properties.
The province is supposed to be taking over that responsibility but contracts that service out to municipalities while building up the necessary resources. The contract is currently valued at about $21,000 for the county, she noted.
If the province cancelled that contract, then the five-year contract with Smith would be revisited because he would be doing about 10 per cent less work, Oyarzun indicated.
ASB's future plans
Council also approved the ASB’s new business plan/strategic plan for 2018 to 2021.
The ASB’s business plan is meant to guide the board’s programming and operational decisions while achieving the goals of the county’s strategic plan.
The business plan basically states what duties the board will carry out as per provincial legislation and directs the ASB to host events like the annual City Slickers tour for Grade 4-5 children.
The new business plan will be included in the orientation of new members in 2020.
County reeve Doug Drozd said the new business plan looks quite good, adding, “It’s come a long way from what it used to be.”