Creston town council passed three readings of the town’s 2012-2016 financial plan at the March 27 regular meeting, following a presentation by finance and corporate services director Steffan Klassen.
All three readings were passed by Couns. Joanna Wilson, Scott Veitch, Tanya Ducharme and Judy Gadicke, with Couns. Wes Graham and Jerry Schmalz opposing.
“The only concern I have with the five-year plan is the cut to our grants-in-aid,” said Graham. “Other than that, I think we’re moving forward in a positive manner.”
“I felt we needed to be stronger and cut a little deeper in the process,” said Schmalz.
If approved on April 10, the five-year plan would see a 12.5 per cent tax increase to homeowners’ gross tax bills at the end of five years, which covers a 36 per cent municipal tax increase due to the transfer of RCMP costs to the town when the 2011 census found the population was over 5,000. Taxation due to police costs starts with a 3.3 per cent increase this year, and a $1.1 million reserve fund will help smooth the tax increase more evenly over the next five years.
Non-police core expenditures have been kept relatively flat, with no increase for 2012 and an average of 1.5 per cent increase each subsequent year for existing services. New increases can be made at council’s discretion.
“All inflation is funded by cuts,” said Klassen.
High priority projects were approved to go ahead as planned in 2012, and the town will spend $1,254,000 on vehicle replacement, traffic safety improvements, paving and chip sealing, and trails and sidewalks.
The town’s water fund and sewer funds will see total budgeted expenditures increase 8.1 and 77.9 per cent, respectively, due to timing of capital projects (operating expenses are down 3.5 per cent for water and 3.4 per cent for sewer).
Water spending includes projects being done on the Arrow Creek system, $20,000 being spent on the Water Smart program and $217,000 going toward pipe replacement and pressure reducing valves.
Sewers will see $5,890,000 spent in 2012, with the majority being on the new waste water treatment plant upgrade, tagged at $4,540,000. Most of that budget was slated to be used in 2011, but construction was delayed until a more cost-effective plan was developed.
The next steps on the Town of Creston financial calendar are the committee of the whole tax rate review on April 3, adoption of the five-year financial plan bylaw and three readings of the tax rate bylaw at the April 10 regular meeting, and adoption of the tax rates bylaw on April 24. Tax notices will be prepared and mailed in May, and a public report will be presented in June.