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Small spending increase expected in 2017: R.M. of Stanley

 Alexis Stockford

R.M. of Stanley Reeve Morris Olafson

R.M. of Stanley Reeve Morris Olafson

The R.M. of Stanley’s books will include a modest spending increase, rising mill rate and slightly higher municipal taxes this year, attendees heard as the municipality tabled its 2017 budget Jan. 26.

The R.M. of Stanley plans to raise spending two per cent, or $137,000, from $6.53 million to $6.66 million in the coming year.

Morris Olafson, R.M. of Stanley reeve, called the increase “reasonable,” adding equipment costs largely contributed to the jump.

The R.M. of Stanley plans to switch out trucks and two graders this year, as per its equipment replacement cycle.

“Our equipment reserve, when we figured it all out, we were down to very low levels, so we have to bring that up because we don’t know what’s going to happen year to year,” Olafson said.

He pointed to instances this year when a grader went down unexpectedly, delaying essential snow removal service.

The R.M. has estimated the graders will cost $200,000 more than the last replacement cycle due to a less than robust Canadian dollar.

Transportation, the largest line item in the 2017 budget at 42 per cent of operational spending, accounts for $2.8 million of the financial plan, down 5.9 per cent from 2016.

The decrease does not equate to less funding for roads, Olafson said, pointing instead to changes in internal record keeping.

Likewise, general government expense is expected to decrease 1.5 per cent to $906,000.

“Our office staff and our operations, actually, we’ve tightened that up,” Olafson said, noting that the tightened budget still allowed for additional staff this year.

The R.M. expects to spend $629,000 (a 1.6 per cent increase) on protective services, $191,200 (an increase of 8.5 per cent) on public health and welfare and $156,000 (a 5.7 per cent jump) on recreation and culture.

The bulk of that additional $37,500 in recreational funds will go to the R.M.’s tree initiative, expected to be announced by the end of February.

“With all the trees that have been mashed down over the years now, we see that there’s too many that have gone away and we want to help that come back,” Olafson said. “We’re in the process of making a program where we’re perhaps going to subsidize the tree rows and expedite some tree row planting back into the system.”

Olafson noted that the program may receive more funding in following years, depending on its reception.

Taxes

The municipal mill rate will climb to 10.074 after hitting a five-year low last year. Last year, the R.M. cut the mill rate by 14.52 per cent from 11.661 to 9.968.

Council largely pointed to an expanded emergency services levy for the increase.

The R.M. recently passed first reading on a bylaw that would add CodeRED alerts, 911 and Southern Emergency Response Committee funding to certain properties previously exempt from the levy. The added bylaw will increase the 2017 special services mill rate .106 to 1.147.

Ratepayers will face a $12 jump ($1,178 total) in municipal tax for 80 acres of farmland assessed at $450,000, or $6 increase ($654 total) for the same land assessed at $250,000, as a result of the bolstered mill rate.

Residential taxes, likewise, are expected to increase $9 to $906 for property assessed at $200,000. A $250,000 home, meanwhile is expected to come with a $1,133 tax bill, an increase of $12.

Education tax was excluded from the proposed plan, pending school divisions’ own budgetary process.

Infrastructure incoming

Major capital projects are expected to carry over into 2017, including the ongoing regional waste water project in conjunction with Morden and Winkler, phase three of village paving, sewer and water investments in the Stanley Corridor along Highway 14 and the Reinland Drain, an estimated $250,000 project south of Blumenfeld.

“It was a project which we started this last year,” Olafson said. “We were going to re-do it and we thought we were going to be good with our design work and one huge deluge changed our mind.”

Olafson noted that the cost of the project might increase once new designs are presented.

The R.M. is currently waiting on possible federal disaster programming assistance in the project.

Contributions

The R.M. of Stanley will make their last installments to both the Tabor Home and Buhler Active Living Centre in 2017.

The Tabor Home is slated for a final $100,000, while $24,000 will go to the active living centre.

Olafson noted that further projects are expected in the future, such as an expansion at the Agassiz Medical Centre and Salem Home.