Preliminary budget for 2020 focuses on maintaining current levels of service

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Discussions regarding the 2020 budget are underway with Whitecourt council and administration going through the preliminary budget during a special meeting of council.

A number of unknown factors will affect the budget in the upcoming weeks with the release of the provincial budget, grant opportunities and the Town’s partnership with Woodlands County.

“Negotiations are going and that will affect the 2020 budget,” said Peter Smyl, chief administration officer. “We don’t know if we’ll have all the changes in place in regards to the interim, but definitely for the final budget.”

A public input summary for the 2020 budget was accepted as information by council. A total of five submissions, both verbal and written, were received were provided for consideration during its budget deliberations.

Residents made suggestions pertaining to garbage collection and recycling while asking for alternative rate structures to maintain or reduce program cost, street lighting and line painting along Caxton Street, reducing non-essential expenses during budget deliberations instead of increasing revenues to balance the budget, a zero per cent increase for property taxes, improving snow removal on all streets, employee wages be cut and the Town do a survey for residents unable to attend the public input session to provide feedback.

Within the preliminary budget, fire protection was an area of interest to council with a new agreement with NorQuest College and the purchase of the new aerial platform truck (to be delivered in summer of 2020).

Additional equipment and training for the new truck will be funded through the Fire Equipment Reserve in the amount of $75,000.

“We have to get the guys trained so they can use it efficiently … probably a good idea if we’re spending that kind of money,” said Coun. Tom Pickard.

Road maintenance was reviewed with infrastructure projects carried forward from 2019 —Olson pathway lighting, Memorial Point Trail and a portion of Highway 43 pathway lights, Highway 32 entrance sign and Blue Ridge Road drainage and road stabilization — and drainage issues for a number of areas around Whitecourt including the Scott Safety Centre.

One area that remains up in the air within the budget is Whitecourt Woodlands Tourism, as the County has not confirmed its participation within the department.

Other areas that were discussed within the preliminary budget was maintenance for the library (new carpet and accessible ramp), projects identified in the Major Facility Replacement Plan —
the Scott Safety Centre, Allan and Jean Millar Centre, Carlan Centre — with some delayed until 2021, fencing and playground structure replacements in local parks and maintaining 100 per cent cost recovery for water, sewer and garbage collection services.

Council accepted the preliminary 2020 budget memo as information.