INNISFAIL – After navigating a tough budget process for 2023 and deciding that a four per cent tax increase was in order for Innisfailians, the Town of Innisfail finds itself with an extra $413,374.
And there is no certainty yet on council as to where that money should go.
However, mayor Jean Barclay said it could be used to help pay for the huge $28 million cost for a new aquatic centre; a facility that could be the starting point for an even bigger and costlier full multiplex.
“When you're talking about a $28 million aquatic centre, that's probably a little bit less than two per cent of that amount,” said Barclay during council’s Agenda & Priorities Meeting on March 20 during a discussion on the extra $413,374. “I don't have my calculator in front of me but I think it would be wise. We'll see what council wants to do with it at the next meeting.”
Council was informed of the surplus assessment money during a 2023 Tax Mill Rate presentation from Erica Vickers, director of corporate services for the Town of Innisfail.
Vickers reminded council that during the 2023 budget deliberations last November administration presented an estimated tax assessment to council; numbers used by the town to calculate the total tax requirement.
Vickers said the budgeted amount ended up being $8,382,450.
Council was told the town received its final 2022 assessment for the 2023 tax year in February, and there was an increase, which coupled with the council-approved four per cent tax increase, leaves the town with a tax amount of $8,795,775; an increase of $413,374 over the budgeted amount.
She told council the extra money could be used for the $28 million aquatic centre project, or repay an $800,000 grant back to the federal government that ultimately came out of reserves.
She added the extra money could also be used for any potential staffing increases.
“(We) are going to save point whatever of the aquatic centre, so we need to keep focusing if we want to do these things. We need the funding to do it,” Barclay told council.
Council approved Vickers report as information. The issue of what do with the $413,374 will be formally decided by town council at a future meeting.
In a later interview with the Albertan the mayor pointed out the town already has a Facility Reserve Fund (FRF) that will have a projected end of the year balance of $1,261,594.
If the $413,374 assessment surplus is added the FRF would have close to $1.7 million.
“We've talked about this facility and we weren't going to build it unless we had 50 per cent of the money secure,” said Barclay.
“What those numbers look like now, and because we've seen an escalation in interest rates, and an escalation in the cost, we have to revisit all that and make sure we have a plan in place for moving forward with this.”
But what if council decides they would rather use the surplus assessment money to lower the four per cent tax increase for 2023 that was approved by council late last year?
“Anything is a possibility and that is for council to decide. We have to ensure that the community has reserves in place in order to do the work that needs to be done going forward,” said Barclay, noting there are also infrastructure improvement needs in the community. “We have to be responsible with the funds.
“We feel our tax rates are extremely competitive in the region. And people want facilities and they want services, and that is supported mostly through tax revenue.”