Dysart et al council worked to pare down a preliminary 2019 budget featuring a 7.35 per cent tax levy increase through an all-day budget session Feb. 14.
Council pored through the budget line-by-line over the course of the day, outlining where the municipality would spend over the next year and searching for ways to find savings.
A new percentage is set to be calculated for the municipality’s next budget meeting March 14, factoring in the various adjustments council made to the budget.
But Mayor Andrea Roberts said a low budget would not necessarily be correct for the municipality.
“A lot of the increase in our budget is related to climate change and to roads and to maintaining those roads,” Roberts said at the start of the meeting. “While it’s always nice to come in and propose a really low budget that will make everyone happy, we need to do what’s best for Dysart.”
Transportation services, the largest portion of the budget, is being increased by 10 per cent this year. Council opted at its Jan. 10 meeting to proceed with the largest road work package brought forward by staff, which includes over $1 million in roads construction.
Council also approved an approximately $1.26 million tender for 2019 road resurfacing during the Feb. 14 meeting.
Environmental Services fee upped
Council went forward with a four per cent increase to its environmental service fee, though indicated they would keep the rate the same for the rest of the term. The percentage ups the user fee from $613 to $638 per energy recovery unit.
Without any increase, the budget projected a $20,000 deficit in environmental services. Roberts noted the previous council had raised the fee by five per cent in 2015 but there’d been no increase in the intervening years.
Coun. Walt McKechnie said a two per cent increase would cover increased operating expenses, while another two per cent would allow for savings for future capital projects.
New condenser gets funding
Council unanimously passed a resolution to spend $84,000 for a new condenser at A.J. LaRue Arena in 2019.
In a staff report, manager of parks and recreation Andrew Wilbee said the current condenser is undersized for summer operation and requested a larger one be installed.
“Replacement of the condenser will reduce the wear on our equipment, reduce energy consumption and stress on the compressors, thus extending their life,” Wilbee said. “It has now become imminent to upgrade this portion of the system as the summer months have become warmer over the last few years.”
Arena improvement plan
After some debate, council supported earmarking $30,000 for development of a plan to improve the upstairs community room of A.J. LaRue Arena.
Recreation program co-ordinator Andrea Mueller said the space is in need of improvements.
“We’ve had to turn people away because it’s not accessible,” she said during the meeting. “The kitchen needs a major overhaul.”
Coun. Walt McKechnie said it would be difficult to find the money to fix the room even after a plan is developed.
“I’m all for trying to make it better for our community but we’ve got some big things on our plate and we don’t have any money right now,” he said.
But council opted in favour of keeping the money in the budget.
“This building has been in there a long time,” Coun. Nancy Wood-Roberts said. “But to truly make it a community centre, it has to be accessible.”