By Kevin J. Sabo For the Advance
Castor’s town council has approved an interim budget going into 2021.
The total expenditure for the 2021 year is projected to be under $4 million, which includes capital expenses. This final number comes as all departments have been trying to find savings where they could, but unfortunately for residents, they will see a projected three per cent tax increase next year.
“(The senior management team) did cut everything that we could,” said Town of Castor Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Robblee.
“The budget represents a three per cent increase to our total budget.”
Part of the reason for the increase, despite the cuts, is due to decreasing assessment values in the community, meaning less revenue for the Town.
“We had to increase just to balance,” said Robblee.
“It doesn’t give us a lot of wiggle room.”
Most departments managed by the Town of Castor operate at a loss, though some changes made to user fees will see waste, gas, and water services seeing light surpluses, though those surpluses can be taken up quickly by unforeseen events such as equipment break-downs or water breaks.
Other departments, such as general government, transportation and recreation and culture always lose money.
With the aging infrastructure in Castor, costs are expected to continue rising.
The Town’s budget for pothole filling is constantly expanding, and crews are getting further and further behind, unable to keep up, and some roads in town are at the point of needing to be dealt with in the next couple of years.
One option presented to council during the Nov. 24th council meeting is putting an overlay over some of the better roads, a move expected to extend their lives by another five to seven years.
If council decides to move forward with the road overlay, the money will decrease the funds available for pothole filling in the community.
“We’re having a hard time keeping up with the potholes,” said Arjan van Hienen.
“We’d get longer life out of what we have left with the overlay.”
According to Robblee, most of the roads worst off will have to have the overlay placed within the next three to five years. After that, the roads will be so damaged that the only option will be totally repaving them.
Council approved the interim 2021 operational and capital expense budgets after coming out of a confidential session.
No decision was made yet about the road repairs, and further discussions will be held. The actual operating budget will be presented to council for approval later in March or April after administration gets assessment numbers from the Government of Alberta.
Gas and water reconciliation
Things continue to improve for the Town of Castor water and gas systems.
With the onset of winter weather and the increase of gas prices, the Town of Castor is operating at a 1.2 per cent surplus. As a member of the Alberta Gas Federation, municipal gas providers are allowed to run between a negative three per cent deficit to a three per cent surplus, with the goal of getting as close to zero as possible.
“That’s a really good number,” said Robblee.
Things, while not looking as positive, are still improving for the Town’s water system. Losses for the month were down to 18.37 per cent.
“We had an 18.37 per cent loss,” said Robblee.
“That’s already better than we had in 2019.”
In the correspondence section of the meeting agenda, Robblee presented a letter to council from two residents who were asking why snow removal had not occurred near their homes on 49th Ave.
At issue is that both residents who signed the letter live just off 49th Ave. and their driveways are accessed by a short section of road that has been missed.
Administration was not aware whether the section was considered to be a road or an alley, and if designated as an alley, it would be placed at the bottom of the priority list.
Due to the snow limiting access to the residences in question, Coun. Kev McDougall motioned that regardless of designation, the area be considered a road, and added to the road plowing under the snow removal policy.
Under the policy, priority routes are done first, then commercial areas, followed by residential areas, followed by alleys.