SUNDRE — A minor windfall from the town’s position as a Gas Alberta Inc. shareholder will be reimbursed to the town’s customers.
The cooperative informed the municipality through correspondence that a collective $2 million was being rebated to all of its shareholders as a result of gains generated by Alberta Gas Inc.’s management activities during the fiscal year ending June 30.
Chris Albert, director of corporate services, told council during the regularly scheduled Nov. 1 meeting that the municipality’s portion amounted to nearly $16,200.
“In the last number of years, we’ve gotten a refund based on their cost savings of purchasing and selling the gas,” said Albert, adding that in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the rebates were refunded to the municipality’s gas customers.
“In 2020, the motion of council was to actually retain those funds within the life-cycling restricted surplus,” he said.
Without recommending any particular course of action, administration provided council with three options to consider.
The first was to refund the rebate to the town’s gas customers by way of approving a per gigajoule credit to be applied on utility bills issued in December for natural gas consumed in November, while the second was to transfer the rebate to the municipality’s gas department life-cycling restricted surplus account or lastly, to direct administration to record the refund as additional revenue for the gas department in 2021.
Background information included in council’s agenda states the rebate would average out to a refund of approximately $8.27 per residential customer.
“Higher demand customers will see a higher rebate because they have incurred higher costs to purchase their gas supply during Gas Alberta’s fiscal year ending June 30,” reads the document.
Coun. Todd Dalke said from his own perspective as both a residential and business gas consumer that about $8 wouldn’t have much impact but that the $16,000 carried more weight in reserves for the future, and motioned for the rebate to be allocated to the life-cycling surplus account.
“Those few dollars, I would rather those go into the life-cycling fund to ensure our taxes don’t increase later on so we can save $8 today,” said Dalke.
Coun. Paul Isaac agreed the amount rebated to the average gas customer isn’t much, but argued it’s a good gesture to make for residents, and expressed a preference for the first option.
Seeking clarification, Coun. Jaime Marr questioned whether any large gas projects are anticipated in the coming years.
“We always have gas line replacement projects,” said Linda Nelson, chief administrative officer. “Those are sometimes annual and sometimes every few years.”
Marr then inquired whether there is an existing reserve with available funding, which Albert confirmed.
Speaking against the motion, Mayor Richard Warnock said that while the amount of money refunded is not much, there are residents who might nevertheless benefit.
“Sometimes, $8 can mean a lot to someone who’s suffering or having a hard time right now,” said Warnock. “So, I think that it would be better off to be good to our residents, and give them these few dollars.”
Before the motion was put to a vote, Dalke argued that a dollar saved today is a dollar the municipality won’t have to ask for in the future.
“We know there’s always projects coming,” he said, adding that one way or another, taxpayers inevitably offset those costs.
Dalke’s motion was defeated, and an alternate motion by Isaac to refund the rebate carried with Dalke and Coun. Owen Petersen opposed.