Town of Clarenville welcomes suggestions at pre-budget consultations
Citizens can still offer ideas until Nov. 11
As was the plan on Tuesday evening, Oct. 30, the Town of Clarenville welcomed discussion and suggestions to help them prepare for their annual operating budget.
For the first time ever, the event was broadcast on Facebook Live for anyone willing to tune in and comment via the social media platform.
In addition to members of council and town staff, two representatives from the Clarenville Chamber of Commerce — president Joe Twyne and past-president Richard Power — showed up to make a presentation.
Finance chair Coun. Paul Tilley began the meeting with a brief overview of the town’s past budget, explaining how they have to designate money for development, operating and borrowing costs.
Much of this is already set before they begin the budget discussion, he says.
Much of Twyne’s presentation for the Chamber of Commerce reiterated suggestions from the group’s presentation last year.
The Chamber suggests the town should hire an economic development officer — either on a permanent or contractual basis; continue the relaunch of a town website; soften the blow of property taxes for businesses by monitoring mill rates, and offer a deferred payment plan for businesses taxes.
Another topic of discussion was White Hills Ski Resort — Power sits on the Alpine Development Alliance Corporation board of directors.
Power said while the 2017-18 operating season was one of the most challenging ever at White Hills, they hope the town will continue to support the resort, as they’ve already done.
Several questions were posed to the town by the public, via the Facebook Live platform.
One of the first comments from the public addressed by council related to infrastructure work, like road maintenance and sewer installation.
Public works chair Coun. Bill Bailey explained they have a set list of projects in order of priority — but when other pressing projects arise, they are forced to pivot and address the more urgent circumstance. “Things like that keep happening because all the infrastructure is aging, it’s breaking down — naturally, it’s been in the ground for a long time — unfortunately, those things happen and throw everything askew,” Bailey explained.
Tilley added as council addresses these issues, they aim to make sure they invest enough money into the repair to ensure the problem doesn’t become a frequent recurrence.
When asked by The Packet if the town had considered, in its budgeting process, allotting money for a legacy fund for unexpected emergencies, Tilley said the money still has to come from somewhere in either scenario.
Currently, they draw from the sequential priority list of projects to pay for emergency water breaks or unplanned road maintenance.
Mayor Frazer Russell says many of the unforeseen expenses are far too costly for an accumulating emergency fund.
“All this council and past councils have been able to do in terms of emergencies is borrow to cover them or . . . make a case to provincial government under emergency funding,” he said.
“Each year taking a couple hundred thousand dollars and putting into a kitty for future use, we have never done that because we do take some money out of our current revenue for capital projects.”
Russell says money they contribute each year —about $400,000 — once combined with the gasoline tax rebate for municipalities, might add up to as much as $750,000.
When this goes towards road repairs it is quickly used up.
As an example, he says road work on Manitoba Drive last year was $440,000 and the work ongoing on Memorial Drive costs $110,000.
“That will give you an idea how far a little bit of money goes.”
Chief administrative officer David Harris says the town is developing an asset management plan to provide a better picture of the investment needed to bring their infrastructure up to standards.
Members of the public also asked for the town to include construction of a public swimming pool in its budget plans.
Harris responded they’ve already had a feasibility study done and the financial burden of a swimming pool is too great to be managed by solely the Town of Clarenville. He says if it were a regional facility with many more people than just the 6,300-resident tax base in Clarenville, it would be more feasible.
Council is still accepting suggestions and comments on the municipal operating budget from residents, until Nov. 11.
Submissions can be phoned in, emailed or dropped off at the town council office.
The town plans to have its annual budget, for 2019, finished by mid-December.
The pre-budget consultation video is still available for viewing on the Town’s official Facebook page, as well as the page of The Packet Community Newspaper.
Town of Clarenville Finance chair Coun. Paul Tilley hosting the pre-budget consultations on Tuesday, Oct. 30. The event was broadcast via Facebook Live.