A small increase for a very important facility in Bashaw can be easily handled in the budget.
That was the sentiment of town council at its meeting Oct. 3 when presented with a requested 30 cents per capita rise in the requisition from the Parkland Regional Library board.
The vote to approve the hike was unanimous, though Coun. Darren Pearson was absent.
The new rate will cost the town of 830 people an extra $249, moving the total funding sent to just short of $7,100 annually.
“The reason they need a little more of an increase this year is because they are having a hard time filling some positions as their salary grid is so low when you compare it to other regional library systems,” said Coun. Rosella Peterman, who represents the town on the board.
“But it’s not really enough (of a hike) for us to make a fuss over and they do provide a lot of very good services.”
Coun. Rob McDonald noted the rise, at 3.6 per cent, is just over Canada’s rate of inflation.
“I think our library is well worth putting in some extra money,” stated Mayor Penny Shantz.
The regional library is funded by provincial grants as well as per capita money from participating municipalities, who also must approve the annual budget.
Peterman did add that there were some municipal representatives at the last meeting that spoke against the increase, so she isn’t quite sure that this budget will get majority approval.
After a short debate, the town’s electrical franchise fee that Fortis Alberta collects will remain at three per cent.
Coun. Lynn Schultz had put forth a suggestion, during the discussion on if the fee should be changed, to hike it to five per cent. However, he was later convinced to make a motion to leave it as is.
“I know it’s another form of taxation, but I was thinking that if we did increase it to five (per cent), then leave the committee to have the three per cent, the rest of it could go to help our general revenue,” Schultz said, adding the committee was somewhat upset with having their funding cut last year.
CAO Theresa Fuller stated the fee has held steady at three per cent since 2013 with the funds raised, historically, being given to the Bashaw Beautification Committee.
However, the entire amount has not always gone to the committee. Last year, the fee took in over $16,000 with the committee getting closer to $11,000 as the town had to deal with some unexpected expenses in its budget.
“I know (the committee) has expressed some concern about the change,” she said.
She added that, even at three per cent, the fee is estimated to bring the town around $21,500 this year and in 2020.
However, Fuller further explained that it isn’t well-known by the committee that there is a pair of reserve funds the town has that could assist projects that the committee could access.
These reserves, totalling about $44,000, and could be used on parks and beautification-related projects.
Peterman and Coun. Rob McDonald both had an issue with the idea, with Shantz liking the splitting of the funds if there were an increase.
“If we are going to increase taxes by (an estimated) $15,000 then I would rather it be on tax roll,” McDonald stated.
“That way would be a lot more transparent. I don’t like franchise fees.”
No to solar
Council has turned down an opportunity to hear from a representative about having solar panels as an option for the town’s larger facilities.
While McDonald felt the idea is fantastic, but that it isn’t worth wasting someone’s time coming out if the town wouldn’t be able to afford the installation and upkeep.
“With the province not put up funds for it now, it would all fall on the town and I don’t think we can do that,” he added.
Meanwhile, Schultz was against it because of the length of time it would take to recover the costs of putting in the system.