HP council sets 2023 budget priorities

Richard Froese
South Peace News

High Prairie town council has set objectives and guidelines to draft operating and capital budgets for 2023.
At its regular meeting Oct. 11, council approved a motion that the 2023 budgets and 2023-27 budget forecasts be prepared according to the guiding principles.
Guidelines in the report were presented by new CAO Bill McKennan, attending his first High Prairie council meeting.
“Council and management of the town take the management and stewardship of public funds seriously,” McKennan says.
“The 2023 budget will follow a rigourous budgetary process that is focussed on containing costs and implementing best practices with the goal of demonstrating leadership in financial management.”
He says the municipality has a record of tight budgets.
“I know the town has been under financial restraint for years,” McKennan says.
Council set budget meetings for Nov. 17, Nov, 24 and Dec. 6 all starting at 6 p.m.
Mayor Brian Panasiuk is optimistic about the strategy to develop an interim budget.
“I like the process,” Panasiuk says.
McKennan presented the guiding principles, that council will:
-Maintain existing service levels.
-Improve customer service.
-Keep tax rates competitive.
“It doesn’t mean they won’t go up,” McKennan says.
-Incorporate a pro-active infrastructure renewal plan.
-Identify and incorporate efficiencies.
-Ensure rates and fees for services are appropriate.
Guidelines are designed to provide the lowest possible tax increase, the report says.
Budgets in previous years have had an even greater focus on financial constraint and tightening the budget, McKennan says in the report.
In 2023, that will be accomplished. Council and management are committed to:
-Freeze most account budgets at 2022 levels unless cost pressures are documented.
-A strict process to evaluate funding requests at both the administrative levels and during council budget deliberations.
-Reinforced council priorities through the budget process.
Under the guidelines, departments will only be permitted to include very specific documented increases, typically related to predetermined agreements, contracts or council approvals.
McKennan says no across-the-board increase for inflation and no automatic increases related to staffing levels and compensation will be made without being presented to council for decision.
Staff has identified major budget pressures and opportunities.
An additional $40,000 will be required to cover the mandatory provincial contribution for policing services.
The impact over the last few years has been about $132,000 which equates to a 3.3 per cent tax rate impact.
Costs of utilities, chemical and core maintenance supplies are increasing.
With interest rate increases, a minimum increase of $50,000 in interest income is anticipated.
“All municipalities are seeing increases in insurance premiums,” McKennan says.
Over the coming weeks, staff will prepare detailed estimates for operating and capital budgets.

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