I have kinda been feeling like a Johnny Cash song lately “I’ve been too New Sarepta, Toefield, Winfield, Camrose, Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc, Calahoo,” and those are just some of the places I’ve been.
You see I have two kids in hockey and travel seems to be a pre-requisite. Couple that with 80-90 hours of budget meetings and the fact I am still trying to sell some pizza on the side and it leaves me with a confession. “I have not put a lot into communicating lately.”
So what has the Town been up to? Well I would say a lot! The most important discussion right now though has been the budget and I want to give you a sneak peek on what we have been discussing.
Every year council looks at what it costs to run the town, and compared it to the funds we normally take in. If it costs more to run the town we make cuts, change service levels or raise taxes. That’s pretty much the quick version of how it all works.
But In reality we sit and meet with every department head and go through each and every line of the budget. Council look at service levels, question staffing levels, increases to cost centres all the while feeling the constant economic pressures of the world around us.
Over the past few years our tax increases have been minimal. 1.9% last year, 0 the two years before that and off the top of my head 1.5% the year before. I feel like anytime our increases are lower than inflation, we are being pretty fiscally responsible.
Now that being said, that can’t go on forever. None of our costs go down, and neither do residents expectations. This year we started with an 8% tax increase. Knowing someone would probably egg my house if that is what we proposed, council and administration has been putting in the work to see what we can do to lower that number.
Now although we are not quite done budget I can honestly say we have done some good work and my house appears a little bit safer, for the moment. The cost of maintaining our roads continues to be a big issue for us and I will talk about them more in a future blog. For this one though I wanted to concentrate on some of the operational pieces we are looking at.
In order to drive down costs council and administration endured an exercise where we threw out any idea we could think of to cut costs or raise revenue. No dumb idea was turned away. Afterwards we spent some time analyzing those ideas, threw out the ones that totally didn’t make sense and had administration go back and analyze the ones we wanted to try. What we were left with was some great options to consider.
Some were easy to recognize as savings. Others though are ones the public would recognize as more significant changes. As such we wanted to reach out for your opinion. We have put together a survey to see where the “comfort level” of our residents is at. We will have the survey opened until January 4that 3:30 P.M. at which time we will analyze those responses and hopefully make some decisions and finalize the budget.
Our goal is to complete this process by the end of January.
I often hear from the public that they want to provide more input. This is a great opportunity to have your voice heard and let us know what you are thinking.
Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey.
The survey can be found here
Thanks for taking the time to be involved in the process and I look forward to your feedback.