Town of Battleford council approves budget despite challenges

By Angela Brown
January 22, 2019 - 8:59am

It was a challenging time for the Town of Battleford Monday night as council deliberated but ultimately passed the operating and capital budgets.

The operating budget reflects a two per cent property tax increase - about $32 per year more on average, based on assessment. Ratepayers will also see a rise to their utilities rate, an average of $72 per year increase.

Mayor Ames Leslie said the tax hike was necessary to reflect increased costs for everything, from the cost of living to climbing interest rates.

“If we don’t raise taxes then that means we have to operate with the same amount of money we did last year, even though everything else costs more money,” he said following the meeting.

Leslie said he is glad council passed a two per cent increase because it's "the right fit" for today's economic market. During council's meeting Leslie described a two per cent increase as quite modest in his opinion based on the need.

The utilities rate increase will help cover some the costs for the town's proposed lagoon wastewater treatment system upgrades to accommodate the town's growth. 

When looking at the capital budget, council wavered in making a decision initially when eying some high ticket projects.

Council was concerned about how to fund the $5 million lagoon wastewater treatment system upgrades, as well as a separate project involving a new storm sewer system at the Industrial Park to improve drainage.    

Mayor Leslie said this was one of the toughest budgets he has had to work on.

“There are some different opinions in the room... even when the vote came in,” he said after the meeting. “There are some significant projects. I don’t think we had a consensus there today as to what priority to put on the projects.”

CAO John Enns-Wind recommended the lagoon project be funded by breaking the cost down, at $1.8 million per year over three years.  

Ultimately, council gave a conditional approval for the lagoon project.

The storm sewer system project, with about $300,000 pegged for the design and construction, will need to come back to council for more information. The system was to be constructed in phases over the next few years, and could end up exceeding $1 million in total, based on the CAO's report.

Some of the other projects planned ahead in the 2019 budget include roadwork for 2nd Ave., from 30th to 35th Street. For the Finlayson Island Bridge upgrades, the town will look for funding support from other partners including the provincial and federal governments to help with the costs which are significant.

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