High River, AB: High River Town Council approved the 2015 operating and capital budgets during its regular meeting on January 26.
A total of $33.8 million has been approved for operations, which includes renewal department expenses. For capital expenditures $6.2 million has been allocated for the coming year.
“We want to ensure that we are being fiscally responsible for the long-term future of our community,” said Mayor Craig Snodgrass. “This budget represents the first step in a larger financial plan that will keep High River financially stable.”
The operating budget will ensure that service levels remain consistent for residents and includes funding for downtown beautification and emergency plan management.
“We want to make sure that we are providing the best service for our residents in the most efficient way possible,” explained Tom Maier, chief financial officer for the Town. “We need to ensure that service levels remain within our financial capacity.”
One of the more significant activities taking place in 2015 is an assessment of Town facilities and infrastructure to determine their condition.
“We need to know where we’re at in terms of the life cycle of our properties and infrastructure so we can start to plan ahead for improvements and repairs,” said Snodgrass. “The Town owns and manages assets that are worth approximately half a billion dollars and we need to make sure that we’re going to be able to properly maintain them.”
Council is committed to developing strategies so the Town is prepared for future infrastructure expenses. This will require a dedicated effort to increase the amount of funds that are set aside as savings each year so there will be money available for future capital projects. This is why council will be approving a two percent tax levy specifically for infrastructure savings.
“All funds collected from this increase will go directly into a long-term savings fund that will increase over time so we’ll have the money available when the Town has to undertake the repair and replacement of existing infrastructure,” said Maier.
Capital projects for 2015 include Phase 2 of the downtown development and a new pumper truck for the fire department. This is to replace a current truck, which is now 20 years old.
While property assessments have not yet been completed and the mill rate is not yet set, it is estimated that the budget will require a 2.9 percent base tax increase for 2015 in addition to the two percent infrastructure levy. Commercial rates will also be increased so they are in-line with commercial tax rates of other local municipalities.
Final approved budgets will be posted on the Town website by the end of the week.