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Town of Eckville’s 2019 budget approaching finalization

The Operating and Capital Budget for 2019 is $3.14 million

The Town of Eckville’s 2019 Operating and Capital Budget is just months away from being finalized.

Council passed the budget at the Dec. 17 regular meeting, but final tweaks will be made and presented to council in May.

Darcy Webb, finance and administration supervisor for the Town, says there “generally aren’t drastic changes” made to the budget between it’s initial draft and the final.

The 2019 Operating and Capital Budget sees a two per cent increase to help maintain the existing level of services in town.

“We’ve got some changes in assessment and that kind of chases the tax rate up a bit, but we try really hard to keep that in line,” said Jack Ramsden, CAO for the Town of Eckville.

The 2019 budget maintained 2018 staffing levels, adjusted wage grids upwards by three per cent and adjusted benefit costs to reflect 2019 rates.

The 2019 operating budget is $3.14 million compared to last year’s of $3.09 million.

Webb explained the operating side of the budget remains fairly similar over the years, but the capital project side changes.

The 2019 budget is being balanced with a $43,000 transfer from the tax stabilization reserve.

“We did have a few pretty decent years where we actually had some pretty healthy surpluses and that was put away to help stabilize,” Ramsden said, adding even though the budget is passed they have to be able to be flexible.

Ramsden used the example of the addition of the dog park last year, which was put in place after the budget was made.

As part of the 2019 budget, council has also accounted to borrow approximately $200,000 to cover the Town’s portion of the Water Treatment Plant upgrade.

The estimated cost of the upgrade is $721,000.

“Right now the reason we would do that is we would borrow that fund and as the asset is used everybody that’s getting the advantage is helping pay for it,” said Ramsden, adding interest rates are low right now.

“We would rather not owe, but on something like a long term project like a water plant or sewage lagoon, we would look at that for some of the options for borrowing.”

The Town has also applied to grants to help pay for the Water Treatment Plant upgrades.

This year’s budget includes 30 operating and capital projects, which total $1.7 million.

Some of those projects are the future library expansion and the Town Centre Park.

Two of those projects, the walking trail expansion and the Friendship Centre parking lot, were denied the requested grants that were included in the budget.

Each project had budgeted for $68,400 of grants to help with funds.

Ramsden says council will now have to decide if they want to scale back the projects or not do them.

After the school requisition and the Senior Foundation requisition come in and the final assessment is done the 2019 Operating and Capital Budget will be brought back to council.

At that time the Tax Rate Bylaw will also be set, which will determine how much property tax someone pays.

The Tax Rate Bylaw and the final budget report will be discussed at council’s second meeting in May on May 27.

The next regular Town Council meeting is March 25 at 6 p.m.

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