In their most recent regular council meeting held on November 28, the Town of Bonnyville Council meticulously reviewed financial reports and draft budgets, shedding light on the fiscal landscape for the upcoming year.
The focal point of the meeting centered around the 2024 capital budget, which currently projects a deficit of $19.1 million. Anticipating $1.1 million in provincial grant funding, the administration remains cautious due to the uncertainty surrounding the actual amount of provincial grant money that will be received. In response, the council proposed deferring several projects to counterbalance the projected deficit.
The initial draft of the budget, which was discussed earlier in the year, had outlined a substantial $24.3 million deficit for the capital budget. The second draft brought about changes aimed at financial prudence. Notably, the double entry for Storm Trunk Upgrade Construction was deleted, resulting in a saving of $4 million. Other amendments included an increase in expenses for the Tourism Strategy, now set at $75,000, and the utilization of reserve revenue for decorative lights, incurring a cost of $325,000. Additionally, the administration recommended deferrals for various projects, such as the future library expansion, infrastructure replacement on 52 Avenue and 62 Street, traffic light installation, and the addition of left-hand turn markings on 46 Streets. These deferrals collectively aimed at saving an estimated $9.8 million.
During the meeting, councilors raised questions regarding the rationale behind specific deferrals. Coun. Phil Kushnir sought clarity on the repeated deferral of adding left-hand turn markings on 46 Streets. In response, CAO Bill Rogers expressed optimism about seeking provincial funding, including dedicated left-hand turn lanes and necessary traffic signal upgrades.
Moreover, the council still awaits a funding plan for the aquatic facility before presenting the interim operating budget. The estimated expenses for the aquatic facility are approximately $250,000. The council plans to advance the budget proposals to an open house scheduled for December 5. This open house will provide an opportunity for public input and feedback on the proposed budgets.
Residents are encouraged to attend the open house, which will be held in council chambers at 6 p.m. It serves as a crucial platform for community engagement and ensures that diverse perspectives contribute to the decision-making process surrounding Bonnyville’s fiscal priorities.