Big Valley village council passed their three-year operating budget and five-year capital budget at the regular meeting April 23.
Councillors met in person at the village office but hosted the public by telephone to abide by social distancing recommendations.
Village CAO Sandy Schell stated developing the three-year operating budget with a new council who has only been in office since December 2019 was a challenge, but believes everyone involved learned quickly how much thought and effort must go into such a project.
Schell stated she feels the operating budget is well balanced and also includes the funding necessary for the provincial government’s requirement for municipalities to pay for extra policing.
Councillors also approved the five-year capital budget and again Schell stated she feels the document strikes the correct balance between demands.
Schell also noted the village operates much like other municipalities in the way that one year will focus on sewer projects while the next year will focus on paving.
With the budget approved, the CAO noted the amount of work finished this summer may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Big Valley council heard a report from Justin Tanner of Gitzel and Associates in Stettler regarding the municipality’s audited 2019 financial statements.
Schell said council was happy to hear Big Valley passed with flying colours.
“We had a clean report,” said Schell. “Nothing stood out to him.”
Councillors passed a motion to accept the audited financial statements and also a motion to retain Gitzel and Associates as auditor for the 2020 year.
Municipal Development Plan
Councillors approved first reading of the new Municipal Development Plan (MDP), which the village has spent months developing with the help of Parkland Community Planning Services.
Schell stated the MDP is more than simply rules for building in the village. She stated it is a vision of what the community feels Big Valley should look like in the future.
Two public meetings were held for the draft MDP, with the first one being very well attended with lots of input according to Schell.
The second one less so.
Councillors considered public input before the MDP’s final draft.
As first reading is passed, council will now host a public hearing to present the draft.
The draft MDP is available on the village website, www.villageofbigvalley.ca, for residents to read at any time.
School requisition instruction
Schell said councillors approved a bylaw which allowed for non-residential school requisition to be deferred to Sept. 1.
Normally, Big Valley tax notices go out in May with the first penalty on July 1, followed by a second penalty on Aug. 1.
Those penalties will now be deferred to September.
The provincial government has requested all municipalities approve a measure like this to accommodate people suffering financially from coronavirus measures.
Utility debts moved to tax roll
Councillors approved transferring overdue utility debts to the tax roll.
Schell stated the Municipal Government Act gives council the authority to transfer unpaid utility bills to debtor’s tax bill if unpaid for 90 days.
The village’s new traffic bylaw was sent back to staff by councillors for a few details, mostly bookkeeping things and wording stated Schell.
The bylaw has already passed first and second reading and will come back to a future council meeting for consideration of third reading.
The revised snow removal policy was also sent back to staff for revised wording.
The CAO stated councillors liked the draft policy but felt the wording of certain parts could be more clearly presented.
It will return to the next council meeting.
The village council’s efforts to increase efficiency in the municipality saw them approve forms for cost savings initiatives and a prioritization formula to be used when necessary.
The cost savings initiative and formula will initially be available to staff and councillors but may be made available to the public in the future.
Schell stated councillors are reviewing two bylaws, Fees and Charges plus Water and Sewer, to see what further updates are needed.
She stated it’s been quite a few years since the Fees and Charges Bylaw was examined and the Water and Sewer Bylaw is in a similar situation.
Generally, councillors will be examining whether fees are adequate.
Schell reported to councillors on various coronavirus measures being handled by village staff.
She stated the village has had a steady stream of pandemic work to handle and she said the staff has been fantastic and deserves a pat on the back for handling things so well.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter