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County of Barrhead councillors approve 2022 interim budget

BARRHEAD - County of Barrhead councillors unanimously approved the interim 2022 operating and capital budgets during their Dec. 21 meeting.
Tamara Molzahn Dec 21 copy
County of Barrhead finance director Tamara Mozahn presented the interim 2022 operating and capital budgets at Dec. 21's council meeting.

BARRHEAD - County of Barrhead councillors unanimously approved the interim 2022 operating and capital budgets during their Dec. 21 meeting.

The budget is necessary so the municipality can continue to operate until it passes its final budget, which is scheduled to come before council for their approval in mid-April. The property tax bylaw, which sets the mill rate, is approved after the final budget, usually at the same meeting.

The interim operating budget is $17,518,554, while the interim capital budget is pegged at $8,087,326 and includes the purchase or construction of $6,379,920 in capital assets. Another $1,693,036 is slated for reserves for future asset replacements. The county will also transfer another $15,000 from the capital reserves to the 2022 operating budget.

Finance director Tamara Molzahn said councillors helped shape the interim budgets through a series of budget workshops in September, October and November, along with a strategic priorities workshop.

"Council will have the opportunity to refine the budgets before their final approval," she said.

Molzahn explained having a more detailed interim budget allows administration and council to tweak the final document when they have more information on the value of any provincial and federal government grants the municipality might receive.

She added it also gives the public, through the engagement process, an opportunity to comment on what they would like to see included or excluded in the budget document, starting with the budget survey, which will be available in January.

Reeve Doug Drozd agreed the current process is much better, noting that when he first joined council, the process of adopting the interim budget was to pick a number they knew they would not exceed.

"This is a more transparent way of doing things," he said. "Ratepayers know from the get-go what is being contemplated for the final budget."

2022 project priority list

In September, councillors identified several projects they would like included in the 2022 operational budget. Items identified by councillors include: a strategic plan facilitator; gravel crushing at the Fort Assiniboine pit; bridge inspection consultant services; the continuation of gravel pit volume testing; the creation of a lake management plan (process has been ongoing for some time); a total municipal staff compensation review; continuation of the wastewater lagoon capacity review; and the Lac La Nonne consultation project.

Operational budget specifics

Transportation and road maintenance makes up the largest portion and accounts for a little more than 40 per cent of the operational budget at $7,014,015.

The next largest expenditure is the school requisition (provincial education tax) at $2,602,994; utilities and waste management at $2,379,807; general services and administration at $1,619,836; protective services (fire, police and bylaw enforcement) at $1,057,603; recreation and cultural services at $874,966; planning and development at $735,328; agricultural services at $734,863; legislative services and elections at $378,428; community support services (FCSS) at $68,500; social housing requisition (Barrhead and District Social Housing) at $39,743; and the designated industrial requisition for the province at $12,471.

Molzahn noted that amounts in the majority of operational budget categories have increased. The largest percentage change from last year is to the policing and bylaw services budget at 37.8 per cent or $94,157.

She went on to say much of the increase to the policing budget is attributed to the change in the provincial policing funding model, which requires rural municipalities and towns under 5,000 to contribute more to policing.

And while the percentage is not as large, the 11 per cent change in the public works budget accounts for $524,340, which will have the most impact on the operational budget.

"Our costs have increased, but not substantially,” Molzahn said. 

The slideshow presentation also showed the 2022 public works expenditure increased by one per cent to $6,949,512 from $6,909,501.

However, Molzahn noted that a substantial 22 per cent drop in revenue is the cause of a more than half-a-million dollar discrepancy from last year.

Most of the decrease, she explained, is because in 2021, the municipality received a revenue boost in the form of a one-time provincial Municipal Stimulus Program grant. Its purpose was to help local governments with infrastructure projects that would have been delayed because of the pandemic.

Capital budget

On the capital side, expenditures towards transportation systems (roads, bridges, etc.) take the lion's share of resources, accounting for about 77 per cent of the total budget, followed by utilities and waste management (water, sewer, lagoons and waste collection) at 20 per cent or $1,241,501; followed by general administration at $152,000; fire services and agricultural services at $20,000 each and recreation and culture at $18,725.

Most of the funding for the capital budget will come from county reserves at $2,761,410; provincial funding and grants at $1,674,250 and $843,801 respectively; the sale of assets at $716,225 and current year property taxes at $383,604.

Planned new capital expenditures for 2022 include three bridges (one is confirmed, two are pending funding announcements); three road reconstruction projects totalling about four miles; the Neerlandia lagoon upgrade; the Manola recreation land exchange; a new records management system for administration as well as folding machine; adding electricity to the new hangar road at the airport; and the purchase of a new excavator and ATV for public works.

Also included as part of the capital budget, Molzahn said, are the replacement of several asset replacements such as a new motor grader and pickup truck for public works.

Barry Kerton, TownandCountryToday.com

 



Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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