The Village of Morrin approved a tax increase to balance its 2021 budget, and residents could face three more years of tax increases to come.
The operating and capital budgets with the tax rate bylaw were passed at the May 18 regular meeting of council.
The budgets were presented and discussed by Official Administrator (OA) Harold Johnsrude and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner, and Johnsrude reminded viewers at the April council meeting it was stated the budget was looking at a $49,000 deficit.
The OA stated he and village staff were presenting a balanced budget.
The OA stated the province’s one-time Municipal Operating Surplus Transfer (MOST) grant helped balance the budget to the tune of just over $24,000, with $5,000 remaining from the grant being given to the arena.
That said, the OA noted residential taxes in Morrin would be going up by 3.5 per cent, while non-residential taxes would be going up by 9.8 per cent and explained factors causing that.
On the positive side Johnsrude stated the village’s mill rates were not increasing from last year’s levels. However, if a property’s value increased then the owner may see an increase on their bill.
Johnsrude gave a detailed examination of the village’s financial situation over the past five years using graphs from Municipal Affair’s website.
The graphs showed Morrin’s finances compared with 18 other similar municipalities as a “median.”
He stated one concerning area of the village’s finances was the “tax collection rate” which he pointed out was 78.92 per cent in 2016.
Johnsrude stated this was too low. The OA stated uncollected taxes and penalties have in some cases exceeded the value of the property they’re associated with.
Also, in 2016 he pointed out the village’s tax base balance was 92.29 per cent, the extent to which the village relies only on residential taxation, which was higher than the median he noted.
Johnsrude pointed out over several years the village used funds from the accumulated surplus/deficit to pay for projects and the village also seemed to be paying more for contracted services, particularly for water monitoring.
These factors, he stated, were all influencing the 2021 budget.
The OA also stated the operating budget called for a 10 per cent utility fee increase as of July 1 of this year.
Johnsrude pointed out the village was not collecting enough money from users to pay for the utility services, and this increase would begin to address that.
Another pressure, stated the OA, is that it appears the village has been “under-collecting” the Alberta government education levy.
This money is collected on behalf of the provincial government and is sent to Edmonton to pay for the education system. He said catching up on the under-collected money is a big part of the tax increase and is not optional.
Johnsrude stated all of these changes ensured the 2021 budget was balanced, but he warned that the MOST grant likely won’t be available next year.
Johnsrude passed a motion to approve the 2021 operating budget.
Johnsrude then moved on the 2021 capital budget.
He stated the budget includes a number of items started in 2020.
It includes projects such as the truck fill upgrade, 2019 miscellaneous paving, water plant emergency pump and preliminary engineering on 2nd Ave. South work.
The capital budget also includes items like replacing siding on the water plant and garbage truck repair.
The total value of the 2021 capital budget is $342,413, which Johnsrude approved.
Tax rate bylaw
Next up was the tax rate bylaw, which essentially allows the village to collect the money it needs for the budgets.
CAO Plachner noted the tax deadline is July 31 and there is a 12 per cent penalty on Aug. 1.
Johnsrude passed all readings of the bylaw to bring it into effect.
Multi-year draft budgets see stark increases
The OA also met the provincial government requirement to approve in principle future draft budgets up to 2024.
He pointed out these are not necessarily binding and the new council elected this fall will have the authority to develop their own budget.
To develop the future budgets Johnsrude stated he used the 2021 budget as a basis.
He showed a chart that listed a nine per cent property tax increase in 2022, six per cent increase in 2023 and four per cent increase in 2024.
Also, utility fees could go up by 10 per cent again in 2022 and five per cent in 2024.
The multi-year budgets were approved in principle.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter