Morinville residents could expect a 3.5 percent tax hike this year as the city’s 2022 budget debate enters its final stages.
Morinville Council called on the administration to prepare a budget during its Feb. 8 meeting based on a 3.5 percent tax hike, a 1-to-1.15 split of residential/non-residential taxes, and a plethora of cuts and supplements based.
A 3.5 percent tax increase would add about $88 to the tax bill of an average $331,629 home — enough for 11 adult-day passes at the Morinville Leisure Center.
Council postponed passage of the 2022 budget in December after the government proposed a 15.39 percent tax hike (five percent regular taxes plus a one-time 10.39 percent sidewalk and road repair fee) that would cost about $397 ( about the price of a one-year adult membership at the city’s recreation center) to the average housing tax bill.
The council instead passed an interim budget equal to 20 percent of the draft and has been debating a final version for the past two months.
The council agreed to allow public works to immediately tap into 100 percent of the budget’s snow removal funds after infrastructure manager Jordan Betteridge told them how recent ferocious weather has brought the city’s snow crews to their knees.
“We already transported more snow in January than all of last winter season combined,” Betteridge said.
Betteridge said crews are overwhelmed and understaffed with investigating about 170 snow removal complaints this season because they have two vacancies and many people have fallen ill with COVID. Their plows are knocked off the roads by grinding thick ice and are often obstructed by parked cars. Salt, sand, and fuel costs have skyrocketed, and freezing rain had frozen their sand storage pile.
Betteridge said his department has spent 80 percent of its preliminary budget on snow removal and has asked that all snow removal funds listed in the December budget be tapped. He also requested an additional $75,000 for snow removal in the final 2022 budget to cover the upcoming November/December period.
“If we don’t move forward with proper funding… [we will] put our team in an impossible position,” Betteridge said.
Betteridge recommended that the municipality revise its snow and ice control policies (e.g., specifying whether references to snow depth are for compacted or loose snow) and increase its reserves for snow removal.
“As climate extremes become more common, we need to be flexible and prepared.”
The council directed the administration to include a long list of cuts and additions in its next draft budget, including cuts in operating hours at the city’s recreation center and an addition of $75,000 for snow removal. The council also requested that a proposed percentage increase in the cost of living for non-union workers be scrapped and replaced with a one-off payment similar to that to be paid to unionized workers.
The Council approved a Council request. Stephen Dafoe is to cut Council fees by 5 percent by the end of the current term.
The council supported the council. Jenn Anheliger’s call to increase Morinville Library‘s budget by $75,569 and restore funding levels for 2020. Also supported was a call from Coun. Rebecca Balanko to cut funding for the Musée Morinville Museum by 10 percent, which is roughly the difference between the amount of money the library requested and what it received.
A 10 percent cut would reduce the museum’s budget to $96,300, slightly below the $97,000 it received in 2016. In an interview, Murray Knight of the Morinville Historic and Cultural Society (which runs the museum) said his group would speak to the committee to consider the cut at the February 15 full meeting.
The draft budget for 2022 will be presented to the Council for debate on 8 March.