At the May 05, 2020 meeting Council approved the final 2020 budget. The budgeted expenditures for operations are $14,217,341 with capital acquisitions planned at $1.6 million. In response to the COVID19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic and the severe challenges faced by residents and businesses in our community, Council challenged administration to forego the 1.9% tax increase proposed in the preliminary budget of December 17, 2019 minimizing the impact to service levels with a zero tax increase. The budget as approved aims to do just that. Key projects during 2020 include road work on 57 Street, north of College Drive; 47 Avenue from Hwy 41 to 50 Street; and 50 Avenue from Hwy 41 to 51 Street. Also included are water main improvements for the area east and west of 52 Street and north of 45 Avenue, a planned contribution for the Lakeland College Aquatic Centre improvement project and the ongoing trial and initiation of a broadband network for underserved areas of the Town. 2020 will also see the completion of the wastewater treatment plant and the delivery of a new aerial platform unit for the Fire Department. Both projects commenced in 2019.
The province’s restraint Budget from last fall added more difficulty in balancing this year’s budget.
Several changes will impact the bottom line of municipalities across the province. Significant changes that affect the Town of Vermilion include an approximate 15% decrease in MSI capital grant funding, a 50% reduction in grants for Provincial Infrastructure, the loss of grant funding for summer students as well as the introduction of a new Provincial levy for rural policing.
Although additional police resources should better protect our community, the net impact of these changes will cost the Town in excess of $250,000 in 2020 and significantly more in future years. The Town is also facing additional headwinds due to the depressed state of the provincial economy especially with regards to oil and gas sector activity. And more currently, the shock to our local economy from measures implemented to combat the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic. As a result, the Town is anticipating very little growth by way of new assessment and there is also an expectation that overall value of assessable property will continue to decrease. Town administration will continue to seek innovative ways to deliver programming without negatively impacting service levels. Utility fees have increased by 3% starting January 2020.
These rates were increased to offset increases from the ACE Water Corporation and to cover off anticipated increases in operational expenses of the wastewater plant (to meet new Provincial regulations) and for continued efforts to promote more environmentally friendly options for waste management such as composting.
Council recognizes that this is a very challenging time and hope to continue to deliver a quality level of services that reflect the desires of our residents, in the most cost effective manner and foster the prosperous growth of our beloved community.