With certain expenses and other funding factors still up in the air, there remains some significant uncertainty about what the financial future holds for Bashaw in the new year.
Council passed its 2020 interim budget at its meeting on Dec. 19, but also had some discussions about how they will have to address the looming annual cost the province will charge for policing.
Administration has estimated expenses for 2020 at just shy of $2 million, but that number will fluctuate as council goes through all of the revenue and expense projections when it finalizes the budget in March.
CAO Theresa Fuller explained the policing cost of almost $16,000 was included in spite of indications from the province that the cost would not flow to municipalities until 2021. This number is 10 per cent of the cost sharing for policing, which will increase five per cent in each of the following two years before hitting 30 per cent — just over $47,000 — in 2023.
“Administration feels it should be in there, but it could wait until next year’s budget,” Fuller said, adding there could be a surprise and then council would have to figure out a way to fund it.
Coun. Rob McDonald was hoping to hear some more details, such as if the province is billing the town without increasing the number of officers in Bashaw. However, administration didn’t have the answers and left McDonald believing the town is going to be hung out to dry in a shell game being played by the province.
“Are they actually going to add an officer before they start billing us?” he said.
“Or does that mean they are going to add the position or an actual person? I don’t think we are going to get an increase in policing. I think they are going to put up a ‘Help Wanted’ sign and bill us $15,000.”
Still outstanding as well is the situation surrounding water usage by town facilities and how that will be addressed.
Fuller said staff are still looking at the consumption figures and comparing that to what the town has committed to buying.
“We still are not sure where some of the water is going,” she said.
“On pricing, it’s all going to be how council wants to proceed — whether they want a price that covers everything or if there is an amount they want to offset or subsidize through taxation.”
Council received the year-end report from Bashaw Fire Chief Jordan Lee that showed the department, as of Dec. 11, had responded to 52 calls in 2019.
The report also notes the new engine is working well and that the many equipment updates (some funded through the department’s fundraising) — wildland protective gear, gas and CO detectors, portable water tank, new radios — were certainly necessary.
Work continues on resolving issues with the community centre following a fire inspection. The electrical room ceiling needs to be closed in and the panic bars on the exit doors are still sticking.
Another spare propane tank will be purchased and appropriately stored following an incident where the ice resurfacer was temporarily unavailable during a busy weekend and the fuel station was closed. Measures are also being put in place to ensure the tanks are refilled on the Friday to avoid this situation from occurring in the future.