The Village of Alix council approved their 2020 operating budget during the April 15 regular meeting of council, and decried the uncertainty the coronavirus pandemic is causing these preparations.
2020 operating budget
Village CAO Michelle White gave councillors an update on the 2020 operating budget and noted that unique coronavirus issues have been applied, such as removing estimated utility bill penalties.
She also noted that staff assume the municipal campground will be open this summer and budgeted accordingly.
White stated in her report that it’s being assumed municipal and private campgrounds will be permitted to open by the provincial government as long as coronavirus prevention measures such as social distancing are followed.
Coun. Vicki Soltermann stated the village collected taxes last year that were not spent, to which White responded that there were unspent taxes from 2019 due to grant funds not being released in time for Alix to complete capital projects.
Mayor Rob Fehr commented that the coronavirus situation is causing a lot of uncertainty when it comes to budgeting.
“It’s changing almost daily,” said Fehr.
Coun. Ed Cole said the COVID-19 situation is unknown territory and he was hesitant to make drastic changes or assumptions in the budget that could have unforeseen effects later.
“We don’t know what’s coming,” said Cole.
Coun. Barb Gilliat stated it should be communicated to village residents that this year’s budget could have less revenue and less money could mean fewer services.
White stated it’s likely staff will come back to council in late summer or early fall with budget adjustments.
After about 30 minutes in a private in-camera session, councillors returned to the open council meeting and approved the 2020 operating budget as presented.
Property tax bylaw
White presented her report on the proposed 2020 property tax bylaw.
She noted Alix will retain the same municipal mill rate as last year, which has actually been the same since 2017.
It was noted that residential assessment value of property in Alix has dropped considerably, while non-residential has remained substantially the same.
Councillors passed all required readings of the property tax bylaw.
Alix council officially passed the bylaw amendment that will give utility bill relief to village residents amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
At a previous meeting, councillors decided to amend the utility bylaw to waive late penalties for three months retroactively to March 1, 2020.
During discussion, councillors stated the waiving of penalties could help those residents financially affected by coronavirus, effects such as layoffs and reduced work hours.
White provided an update to councillors on coronavirus measures being taken in Alberta.
Mayor Rob Fehr also gave a report about a central Alberta mayor’s teleconference he took part in after a request from the City of Red Deer.
He said the city was curious how other municipalities were handling the pandemic.
During discussion, councillors noted it might be more difficult to keep people following pandemic measures when warm spring weather is showing up.
There was also discussion about how spring events like yard and garage sales could be held while also following social distancing rules.
White stated the citizens of Alix and area are following guidelines very well and there have been very few if any problems in the area.
It appears some light may be shed on a complaint a resident recently had that the north side of Alix is too often in the dark.
In a memo to councillors, CAO White stated a resident recently contacted council to voice concern that the north side of the village is too dark and required more lighting.
Concerns about strangers in the neighbourhood and the potential for crime were voiced.
While village staff estimated two new streetlights would cost roughly $14,500, White said the village investigated the issue by contacting Fortis Alberta, who came back with a quote for $9,452.37 plus tax.
Mayor Fehr stated he was happy to see the quote quite a bit lower than expected.
Coun. Cole asked if Fortis will change their minds later. White said this was a quote and expected it to be reliable unless the village changes the scope of the work or something unexpected happens.
White also noted the amount was listed in the 2020 draft budget and should be completed during the current construction season.
Councillors unanimously approved the new streetlights.
Councillors read a letter from Missing Link, an internet service provider, regarding a program municipalities can use to get fibre optic internet lines installed to residences.
After discussion, council decided to accept the letter for information and not act on it at this time.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter