Paintearth council given outline of 2018 budget challenges

Paintearth Council tabled a draft policy for social media following discussions at the regular Paintearth county meeting on Tues. Nov. 7 which was a tied vote.
Concerns were expressed using U.S. President Donald Trump’s issues resulting from his social media communications.
“This would be a bulletin board, no comment, no interaction”, said Chief Administrative Officer, (CAO) Tarolyn Aaserud, adding “that it would be “something that we post on our web page, we would post it on Facebook.
“I think it’s opening up a flood gate,” said Coun. Tyrill Hewitt referring to the number of platforms available through social media.
CAO Aaserud noted that “this [social media] was the first step and this is what we think we can handle” in house with the present staff.
Coun. Dale Norton spoke in favour saying it would be good for the young people.
Coun. Hewitt concluded, “I think it’s risky. I think it’s going to cost money and time.”

Appeal Boards
Councillors approved a draft bylaw and rescinded the previous one, to allow for the Subdivision and Development Appeal Boards to be able to select from a wider pool of appointed members at large for appeals.
Although appeals can be heard by panels of three to five members, having a larger pool of members at large [from four to nine] to call upon is desirable.
The appeal boards have one member from council.

Coal transition
CAO Aaserud reported on the Coal Opportunity Committee that is now formalized because of the Coal Transition Funding (CTF), explaining that previously it was just an ad hoc committee.
Aaserud explained that the committee has agreed that the County of Paintearth should be the ‘managing municipality’ for the six that are part of the committee with the other municipalities of Forestburg, Flagstaff County, Halkirk, Castor and Coronation.
Urban Systems, who completed a study for the committee, has agreed to create the application for the funding for the group at a cost of $2500 for each member.
Council agreed to assist Halkirk (the smallest populated municipality in the group of six) with any shortfall in finding funding for this expense.
Councillors were in agreement that it was important to have Halkirk’s participation.
Should the grant application be successful, Deputy Reeve Doreen Blumhgen said “then it’s working together to see how we are going to spend it.”
Branding, broadband, available housing, inclusive communities, business development group and airport land and developmen were just some of many suggestions raised by the committee.
A motion including applying for the CTF grant, accepting the responsibility of being the ‘managing municipality’, and contributing to the shortfall of funds for Halkirk were all carried unanimously.

Disaster planning
Issues arising from the Oct. 1 – 2 snowstorm including liability coverage for county equipment and employees on Alberta Transportation roadways and the process for road closures will be discussed on Thurs. Nov. 9 at the Disaster Services workshop. Council was hopeful for results to be put into a ‘memoradum of agreement’ between Alberta Transportation and the County.
“So at least we know what we can do and what we can’t,” said Coun. George Glazier.

2018 Budget
CAO Aaserud presented a 2018 Budget Planning document outlining the substantial decrease in the County’s assessment base that includes the shut in of numerous oil and gas wells, a loss of value of the Battle River Generating Station and other economic factors that have been accounted for in the modifiers set by Municipal Affairs.
According to CAO Aaserud, this has resulted in a yearly budgeted loss of $1.5 million in tax dollars.
“A lot of challenges are coming,” said Aaserud. “we have to start looking outside the box.”
Major monetary challenges include decreases in provincial government funding, inflated costs of materials and services, providing services for many organizations at no cost, and ratepayers expectations of more services at no additional cost.
Aaserud also noted that the County provides many services to the region and ratepayers that are not full cost recovery, listing water, sewer, back sloping and brushing as some examples.
In her presentation she noted that new regulations and legislations by the new Municipal Affairs Act, Occupational Health & Safety and Tangible Capital Assets will require additional staff time, material and training.
A list of core services and another list of extra services were provided to councillors for consideration when addressing the 2018 budget at the next county meeting on Nov. 21.
An interim budget must be passed by Dec. 31.
The document ended with four ways to overcome the challenges to create a budget that includes the services ratepayers expect and a mill rate that council views as fair for the services provided.
They were 1.) increase mill rate to support services that are currently being provided;
2.) reduce services provided and leave the mill rate; and 3.) introduce full cost recovery; 4.) introduce full cost recovery for services provided to other organizations.
We need $100,000 of new assessment each year to cover off increase in costs.
There is a projected surplus in public works however, “one snow storm, she’s gone”, said Aaserud.

Library mid-term report
The Coronation Library, chair Val Cornell and Eunhye Cho, library manager provided a mid-year report to council noting that besides Cho, Azuza Watson is assistant librarian and seven volunteers. Volunteer hours amounted to 739.5 hours last year.
“The role of a library has drastically changed,” said Cornell. “It’s no longer a place of quiet, whispers. It is noisy, a completely different institution, full of people, loud.”
Libraries are like a social club, with knitting, three book clubs and chess. The library has 1800 DVD’s with over half of them being donated.
In 2016 the library lent 11,125 items to residents of Coronation and area, 919 people attended 134 public programs, the wifi hot spot was used 20,807 times and the computers were used 1,872 times to go online.
Presently the library board is looking at purchasing a 3D printer with casino funds.

Castor arena project
In councillor reports, Coun. Norton reported from the Castor Rec Board that progress is starting on the arena renovations.
The county had previously committed $50,000 for 2017 and another $50,000 for 2018 for the project.

J. Webster
ECA Review

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