IN THE NEWS
Very strong sentiments were expressed against the new county buildings on our recent Taxpayer Survey. Highlights of the results are as follows:
- 95% opposed the new admin. Building
- 92% opposed the new ag. services building
- 88% opposed the new ag. events building/arena
- 100% felt bridge maintenance was important
- 89% favored increasing senior funding
- 77% felt current tax rates should be frozen or lowered
- 62% said increasing CPO’s was not important
The top five most frequently expressed comments were to reduce/freeze taxes; cut administration costs/bureaucracy; control over-spending; get out of the real estate /land development business; and stop the spending in Nordegg.
A complete summary of the results and comments was presented to council at their Open House on Thursday, February 19. A summary was also given to Laura Button, Editor of the Mountaineer and an information article was sent to the Western Star as well. If anyone would like a copy of the results kindly call Marianne at (403)729-2493.
Budget deliberations took place February 2 and 3 in council chambers. Each department head gave an itemized account of their proposed budget for 2016 and well as outlooks for 2017 and 2018. Two main highlights were noted:
- Department heads worked well to maintain the status quo on most of the expenses for services—e.g. gravel costs, road maintenance, plowing contracts, fuel, materials, repairs, etc.
In most cases all these costs remained the same as in 2015.
- Salaries, however, for each department went up significantly more than the 1.7% indicated in December. Some examples for the different departments are: Admin.—4.5%; Facilities—27.94%; Winter gravel—28.0%; Road Maintenance—9.19%; Nordegg Operations—25.7%; and Community Policing—4.6%
When questioned about this at the Budget Open House, Rudy Huisman, Director of Corporate Affairs explained that there was the 1.7% cost of living increase, but then people also got an increase on their grid as well.
On Tuesday, February 23, the budget was granted final approval. Two councillors, Theresa Laing and John Vandermeer, put forth excellent arguments in an effort to re-think the budget and to put some restraints on spending due to the uncertainty of the economy, but the budget was passed 5-2. Tax rates and assessments remain a huge unknown at the moment.
Roses—A very special bouquet of roses and thank you goes out to the 66 people who took the time, and put in the effort, to complete our survey (58 of whom were not members of our association). We certainly appreciate your efforts and we will continue to lobby council, representing your well-spoken concerns. Special congratulations to Rick Lobley, winner of the $100 Coop Gift Card.
Rant #1—In light of the current economic situation and the norm for salaries province-wide, the 2016 salary increases being provided by this county are disgraceful. It is absolutely inconceivable how council could approve a budget that will now force people (many of them whose salaries are frozen, reduced, or no longer existent) to pay taxes to cover those salary increases. How is that “providing a service” for the people footing the bill???
Rant #2-- When will county council come clean on their proposals and plans for new buildings/developments? It is time to come out from behind closed doors and face the people who will be funding these potentially grandiose schemes. Continued secrecy only breeds mistrust with a very real concern for the huge dollars in taxes we will be forced to fork out for an unnecessary empire. A public meeting with detailed plans and costs would, on the other hand, be an honorable exercise… one that taxpayers deserve.
March 10, Regular meeting
April 14, Regular meeting
(Both meetings at 7:00PM, Leslieville Elks’ Hall)