Melfort has approved a capital budget that – if everything goes to plan – includes $4.6 million in spending.
The big items include $1.4 million to replace water lines – dependent on receiving $582,000 in grants from the Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure Component and Clean Water and Wastewater Fund as well as $564,000 from the gas tax rebate; $1.2 million to fix service roads along Highway #6 – dependent on receiving that money from the province; $400,000 to pave four blocks on Saskatchewan Drive – dependent on $300,000 from the province; and $138,500 for Northern Lights Palace improvements.
Coun. Glenn George, the chair of the legislative and finance committee, said he was pleased with the budget.
“With the amount of money we had to work with, I think it’s good. Is there a lot of stuff we missed? Yes. Would I have liked to have done more? Yes, but that’s all of the money we had.”
“I think that after all of our deliberations and discussion we’ve come up with a pretty good budget that will keep the city on the straight and narrow,” added Coun. Doug Terry, chair of the public works committee. “We’re pleased with it and we’ll be reviewing it on an ongoing basis.”
Coun. April Phillips, the chair of the community services committee, highlighted the improvement to the Northern Lights Palace.
“[There are] improvements to the Northern Lights Palace, more improvements than what we had first looked at,” she said. “We needed to do some replacing of the floor, so we’ve moved that up in the priorities.”
Those improvements include replacing the lobby flooring, pool filters, a new hot tub structure and an upgrade to the concession.
Rick Lang, Melfort’s mayor, said key parts of the budget depend on receiving grants from the provincial and federal government’s Building Canada Fund.
If we don’t, we’ll shift that money to a different set of priorities,” he said. We won’t make that decision until the middle of the year, until the Building Canada Fund awards are handed out.”
Operating budget draft
If city staff received everything they’ve asked for that’s labelled as high priority in the operating budget, it would require a 4.62 per cent increase in tax revenues.
To simply maintain the status quo would require a 3.2 per cent increase due to salary increases and other inflationary pressures.
The operating budget is still being decided on by council.
“I don’t know if that’s acceptable or not, to be honest. I want to have the entire extra requests analysed to see if those are things we definitely have to fund at this point or if [they] are something we can live without for now,” Lang said. “In a perfect world, you want to deliver all of the services in an efficient way as possible and still cover off all of your needs.”
On the wish list is a heavy equipment replacement fund. Staff is asking for $131,000, with $31,000 to be funded by new taxes.
“I’m looking at it and I’m saying: I know we have to develop a heavy equipment fund,” Lang said. “That’s a huge part of the additional requests from a percentage increase, so I’m looking at it and saying: do we need to fund all $131,000?”
The mayor said it could be possible to start the fund with $100,000 and build from there.
Also included on the wish list is a website update at $4,000, an extra $10,000 towards internal debt servicing, $30,000 for a new official community plan and $5,000 for fairs on Main Street. Some items, like the fairs, council asked staff to see if they could find the money from their existing budgets.
Lang said he doesn’t want a large tax increase without some analysis why it would be necessary.
“With respect to the budget, what I want to see is something to come back from administration with some alternatives to what was presented today and we’ve given them some suggestions as to how they can get there.”