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By Michael Christianson
After much debate Dryden City Council has passed their 2017 budget.
The balanced budget put forth by city Treasurer Steven Lansdell-Roll boasts a zero per cent property tax increase, no reduction in service levels, $1.52 million in city funded capital from 2017 operations, an additional $480,000 in capital carried forward from 2016 and $580,000 in capital funded from reserves. If all external sources of funding are approved and received as planned a total capital spend for 2017 will be $5.12 million.
The budget also includes a debt-servicing budget of $2.97 million. In addition the budget shows measured staffing increases of 3.36 full time equivalent staff positons with a budget impact of $210,000. The 2017 budget also shows a hydro expense budget increase of $230,000.
Councilor Norm Bush praised the work of city staff in getting this budget finalized in such a timely manner.
“Looking at the budget the budget appears to meet all of our current needs, the budget reflects inflation, inflation is built into the budget,” said Bush. “We are able to make our debt payments and we’ve studied those at length. We are able to support a capital plan of about $1.52 million. We do have reserves and if you ask the treasurer now what we have in any one of those reserve accounts, first of all we have money, which we didn’t have two years ago, secondly we know actually what the dollars are.”
The first item brought forward at the budget discussion was an amendment by Mary Trist to increase property tax rates by one per cent with those funds going to additional projects.
Councilor Roger Valley also reaffirmed his stance that the city requires a tax increase.
In the end they were the only two councilors pushing for the change and property tax rates remained at zero per cent.
Next was an item that was discussed at great length from the capital projects list, a public works project to install LED Street lighting.
The proposed project is set to cost $631,516 with $123,414 coming from the SaveONenergy Grant and $508,102 from the capital reserve. At 32 per cent of the budget councilor Bush felt that the project required a closer look. Bush wanted to know the ongoing costs for LED versus the old way and the economics of the project. CAO Ernie Remillard was not sure that more investigation into the topic would breed any new results.
Councilor Valley said he could support an amendment to remove the project barring that it could be reinstated after more discussion.
Public Works head Blake Poole reaffirmed that stalling on the project could affect funding and that the LED street lighting did not include redoing the decorative street lights downtown.
In the end an amendment to the budget was approved to further look at the LED street light project and that council would return next month with direction on the item.