An interim Operating Budget was unanimously approved at the regular Stettler Town Council meeting on December 3 which will result in the following fee increases effective January 1, 2014.
In-Town water consumption fees – increased $0.07 per m3 to $2.59 per m3.
Flat Sewer fee – increased $1 per month to $19 per month.
Residential Garbage Pick-up – increased $1 per month to $19 per month.
No changes were made to the Flat Water fee – $10 per month and the Residential Recycling Pick-up fee – $6 per month.
The interim budget is used as the authority to provide services and programs, not to set property tax rates.
Given the projected shortfall in cooperative partnership funding of $611,825 relating to the modernization efforts currently underway at the Stettler Recreation Centre (SRC) ($2.35 million) and the need for further major updates ($3 million range) to the ice arenas in the near future, Town Councillors determined that there will likely be pressure to increase property taxation beyond three per cent in 2014.
Administration will also be looking at reviewing the flat monthly sewer rate structure to make it inherently more equitable and fair. The Commercial class of property consumes approximately 46 per cent of the water but only generates about 38 per cent of the sewer revenues.
In a split decision (6 – 1) Council approved a motion to recognize the efforts of the Town employees with a Christmas bonus of $325 to be paid in local Heart of Alberta Dollars (prorated for part time employees). Administration was also directed to close as many operational and emergency functions of the Town as possible on Friday, December 27 to allow as many employees as reasonably possible a Christmas break of five consecutive days. Councillor Al Campbell opposed the motion.
Director of Operational Services, Melissa Robbins explained that during the winter some businesses in the industrial subdivision push snow from their parking and storage lots into the adjacent ditches. This snow hides the culverts and catch basins which can cause unnecessary flooding in the spring.
Reminder letters will be sent to all snow removal companies and businesses in the industrial area. Those businesses that continue to push their snow in ditches and across public property will be ticketed starting late January 2014.
A motion was approved to write off $12,732 of bad debts for the 2013 fiscal year. The majority of bad debt is unpaid utility bills from properties that are rentals. A utility account cannot be added to an owner’s tax account. Overall the Town of Stettler has a relatively low amount of accounts considered uncollectible. All bad debts are given over to a collection agency.
Director of Parks & Leisure, Lee Penner attended the meeting to discuss the Heartland Beautification Committee’s (HBC) involvement in the planning and design process for the new park in the downtown core (donation from the Peters family). It is estimated this park may cost $30,000 to complete.
The HBC working group has been very active and successful in their projects and endeavors to improve the community of Stettler. A motion was unanimously carried to approve HBC’s 2014 Budget request in the amount of $22,000.
Administration continues to look for ways to reduce the operating costs of the Stettler Recreation Centre (SRC). Council discussed various alternative energy options that may be economically desirable and beneficial when considering future mechanical renovations at the SRC.
The Franchise agreement between the Town and ATCO Electric expires on June 1, 2014. This agreement gives ATCO the right to provide electricity to the Town and allows municipalities the right to set a franchise fee on its residents. Currently Stettler applies a 7.5 per cent fee on transmission costs which generates $354,000 in revenue each year. The Alberta Utility Commission places a cap of 20 per cent.
Eighty per cent of the franchise fee is generated by residential property and 20 per cent from business property. In contrast, 60 per cent of property taxes are generated from businesses and 40 per cent from residential.