Town of Stettler writes off almost $22k in bad debt

Stettler town council wrote off almost $22,000 in bad debt by resolution at the regular council meeting Dec. 7.

Councillors read a memo from town Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Steven Gerlitz that stated the municipality has a policy that prior to the end of the year staff will present council with a list of unpaid and uncollectible debts that each amount to more than $300, adding only council can authorize those debts be written off.

“For 2021, $15,935.87 should be expensed as bad debts in excess of $300, which represents 21 accounts,” stated Gerlitz in his memo. 

During discussion he told councillors this amount was all unpaid utility bills and mostly involved renters who had moved away from Stettler with town staff exhausting all avenues to recover the money.

He also pointed out there were $5,479.73 in unpaid fees for fire department call-outs and $561.26 in unpaid taxes linked to mobile homes.

Bad debts under $300 per account don’t need council approval to be written off, but Gerlitz noted staff must notify council of these debts. 

“As well, I have expensed 10 accounts under $300 totalling $1618.24 and expensed 13 inactive accounts with credit balances totalling $16.51,” stated Gerlitz.

He pointed out that the unpaid utility bills were a very small amount of the budget. 

“Based on local 2021 utility revenues to date of approximately $4,124,343 the utility write-offs totalling $18,115.37 represents 0.44 per cent of revenues (2020 = 0.27%),” stated the memo.

Councillors unanimously approved writing off all the unpaid accounts of more than $300 each.

Museum budget

Councillors read a proposed 2022 budget from the Town and Country Museum requesting $42,000 from the Town of Stettler for next year’s operations. The budget included an unsigned letter describing some of the museum’s operations.

The agenda memo to council noted that in 2010 the museum requested $18,000 for its budget and last year requested $34,000. 

Mayor Sean Nolls stated he felt the proposed budget should be discussed at an upcoming committee of the whole (COW) meeting where more time could spent on it. Councillors agreed.

FCSS funding

Councillors heard a presentation from Stettler & District FCSS on its proposed 2022 operating budget. The presentation was made by board member James Nibourg and executive director Shelly Walker. 

The proposed budget showed no request for increased funding and that FCSS requested $39,287 in town funding which reflected Stettler’s 20 per cent portion along with $157,148 in Alberta government funding, the remaining 80 per cent portion.

Nibourg noted the FCSS staff worked hard over the past 20 months to keep the FCSS office in Stettler open and functioning, whereas the federal employment office and the provincial Alberta Works offices both closed their doors.

The report included information on FCSS programs which include grief support, rent assistance and many more. 

Councillors unanimously approved the Stettler FCSS budget request.

Public library

Councillors also approved the Stettler Public Library’s request for funds after a delegation presented the library’s proposed 2022 operating budget. The delegation included Library Manager Rhonda O’Neill.

The proposed budget included a request for $$250,117 for the library’s 2022 year. 

O’Neill stated donations and fundraising for the library have been going very well although the library was requesting the town council grant them higher funding akin to 2020 levels.

Coun. Gord Lawlor stated library staff worked very hard during the pandemic and may have been even busier then than usual.

Mayor Nolls stated he felt that having a great public library is an important part of economic development, as new residents often visit the library soon after arriving. 

Councillors unanimously approved the library’s budget and funding request.

Board of Trade

The Stettler Regional Board of Trade (BOT) presented their 2022 budget to council, including a request for grant funding of $372,776. 

The staff memo to council included a listing of previous BOT funding requests, which began with $160,450 in 2009 and concluded with 2021’s request of $372,805.

BOT Executive Director Bryan Geddes and Project Manager Donna Morris presented to council and noted the BOT once again had to cope with pandemic restrictions in 2021 which meant postponing many large events such as the trade show to next year.

They also noted the popular Pheasant Festival held every autumn has been spun off and now has its own board of directors. 

Councillors unanimously approved the BOT’s 2022 budget and funding request.

History book

Councillors unanimously approved a grant of $16,450 to the group of volunteers working on a Stettler community history book. Stan Eichhorn spoke to council on behalf of the volunteers.

Town CAO Greg Switenky asked Eichhorn if the volunteers were successful in getting a $10,000 grant from the provincial government, to which Eichhorn responded no, the group had been turned down. 

Eichhorn stated not much had actually changed since earlier this year when the group presented to council. 

Switenky asked if the volunteers still wanted the $10,000 grant councillors had promised at that time to which Eichhorn answered, “We’d be very happy with $10,000.”

Eichhorn pointed out volunteers are working on the book as often as possible and there was no release date set. In fact, that’s why, explained Eichhorn, the volunteers didn’t want to ask for deposits on the book because no date is yet known.

Councillors, after examining the volunteer’s list of upcoming expenses, approved by resolution a grant of $16,450 from the cultural reserve account for the history book project.

 

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.