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Town of Bonnyville confronts deficits in 2024 budget

The Town of Bonnyville’s council and the public were presented with the first draft of the municipality 2023 budget during a regular council meeting on October 24.  

The initial budget draft revealed substantial deficits in both the capital and operating budgets, with significant work ahead to balance the financial plan.  

As of now, the capital budget is approximately $24.3 million over budget, while the operating budget has a shortfall of about $1.75 million. It’s important to note that these budget drafts will undergo two more revisions before they are passed as the Towns 2024 interim budget before December 31. Further adjustments can still be made before the 2024 property tax rate bylaw is approved in May 2024.  

The first draft of the budget includes a comprehensive list of the municipality’s needs along with councils’ priorities for the upcoming year. Key areas of focus include recreation and wellness, as well as economic development. 

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Within the capital budget, a range of projects was discussed by the council, including a master plan to enhance recreation activities along Jessie Lake, downtown revitalization initiatives, and economic development priorities.  

Several new projects were added to the 2024 budget, such as the replacement of decorative lights along the main street $325,000, a GIS air photo $30,000, economic development priorities $100,000, self-watering planters $15,000, beach volleyball court enhancements $15,000, and increase in the Bonnyville and District Centennial Centre’s annual capital budget $275,000, and an accommodation study $50,000.  

To reduce the current deficit in the capital budget, the administration proposed deferring 10 projects, potentially saving roughly $9.6 million in 2024. While these projects are considered critical, they can be postponed for a year or more without significant consequences.  

Regarding the replacement of decorative lights on the main street, Stoyles’ explained that many parts of the existing streetlights have become obsolete, making repairs impossible. ATCO proposed replacing all of them at once to ensure uniformity. The new decorative lights will be LED, expected to be cost-effective for the municipality in the long term. 

The accommodation study may also offer future cost savings by assessing the municipality’s current facilities, department needs, and the best use of municipal buildings. It may play a role in addressing potential library expansion.  

In the operating budget, there is a $1.75 million deficit, with several cost increases contributing to this imbalance. Areas of increased expenses include funding requests from outside organizations, insurance, a municipal census, reserve transfers for RCMP COLA, and equipment replacement reserves due to rising equipment costs.  

Stepping Stones Crisis Society’s $550,000 funding request for Phase II of their second-stage housing building in Cold Lake and their satellite office in Bonnyville had a significant impact on the operating budget. Mayor Elisa Brosseau expressed concerns about the full ask but showed support for the $50,000 for the satellite office in Bonnyville.  

The public will have the opportunity to raise questions and concerns during the budget open house on December 5. Where the administration will present a third draft of the two budgets. 

The council and administration will continue working on these budgets to ensure a balanced financial plan for the Town of Bonnyville in 2024, addressing the community’s needs while managing financial constraints.

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