May 11, 2022
Council’s meeting last week had three big items on it: Or maybe six, depending on how you count them. The most important one (consisting of three parts), was the approval of budgets and setting of the tax rate. That all happened quite quickly, all the heavy lifting having been done in previous meetings. Taking longer was the annual report of the property value assessment contractor, and the Community Assistance Board session, which dealt with a bigger-than-usual number of grant applications.
Council approved an operating budget for 2022 of $14,898,528, slightly up from last year’s $14,391,011. Some of the bigger items in there are $3.5 million for administration, $2.1 million for protective services (fire dept. being the biggest of the bunch) common services at $2.48 million (fleet, buildings, etc.) roads at $7.3 million, water at $2.3 million and waste water at $1.8 million. Some of these are partly offset by the revenue they generate.
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of a Brad Pearson motion to approve the operating budget.
This one was approved unanimously also, with no discussion, all of that, as noted, having taken place earlier. The total amount for this year is $6,048,638. However, only 62 per cent of that ($3,791,500 million) is newly allocated money. The remaining $2,257,138 is carryover from the 2021 capital budget (which was $3,937,000), for work scheduled for that year but not completed.
Carryover projects include work on the Smith sewage lagoon, the Canyon Creek water plant, Old Smith Highway re-routing, Smith arena surface, Canyon Creek campgrounds and a handful of other, fairly minor items.
New for this year are some vehicle replacements, a beach grooming machine, pavement re-hab in Smith, water intake pipe at Canyon Creek, Smith water intake upgrades, and southshore wastewater upgrades (among others).
Weed and pest inspectors appointed
The M.D. was successful in hiring a couple of weed and pest inspectors for the season. But to actually qualify to carry out enforcement under the relevant Weed and Pest Control Acts, they have to be formally appointed by council. Accordingly, council appointed Belle Gauthier and Crystal Pearson to those roles.
Both employees work out of the M.D.’s Flatbush sub-office, until the end of August. Training has already begun in weed and pest identification and pesticide application.
The M.D.’s property value assessment contractor turned out in force for its annual report. Four members of the Accurate Assessment team attended the meeting, to report on and answer questions about the various assessment categories. The industrial side is dealt with in a separate article.
Residential assessment is up four per cent (2021 over 2020: assessment is always a year behind). This is due to a combination of new builds and generally increasing value. The non-residential category is up five per cent. Farmland assessment is up a fraction so tiny it didn’t rate a single percentage point. Of course farmland value is regulated by some government-imposed formula designed to keep taxes down and bears no relation to actual market value.
Last year saw $12.1 million in residential construction. At the same time, inflation added $16.8 million to the total assessment value of residential properties. Non-res. growth from new construction was modest, at $2.8 million in 2021. The market value of that property actually dropped, by 0.7 per cent last year, according to the Accurate report.
CAB hands out money
Council convened as the M.D.’s Community Assistance Board (CAB) to consider nine applications for funding from community groups. The discussion on the merits of the applications took place in camera. Following that, council made the required motions, as follows:
Flatbush Silver Threads Ass’n. – $1,741 to refinish floor curling floors; Slave Lake Curling Ass’n. – $4,000 to help with upgrades to the ice-making system; Woods & Water Recreational Trails Ass’n. – $2,442.12 to help cover the cost of summer trail maintenance projects; Slave Lake Minor Soccer; – $200 to help with net replacement; Flatbush Help Services Society – $1,350 to help provide services to seniors and people with disabilities; Lesser Slave Forest Education Society – $850 to go towards its Enviro-Quest summer day camp.
A request from the Smith Traildusters Horse Club was tabled, pending the receipt of more information.
Plow truck tender results
The M.D. is due to replace two timed-out plow trucks with new ones this year. The first round of tendering for provision of the units brought unsatisfactory results, so it was done again. Better luck this time, council heard: the M.D can expect to get one of the trucks before the snow flies, and the other one in January. The earliest delivery before that had been July of 2023.
The successful bidder is a company called Viking Cives, at the rate of $375,958 per truck.
The CAB also dealt with three requests for funding from the M.D.’s Family and Community Support Services budget. They were approved as follows:
Flatbush Help Services – $5,400 to allow it to provide services such as yard maintenance, light repairs and snow shoveling; Gentle Ben Care Society – $10,578 for its work providing services to seniors to allow them to stay in their homes in the Smith area, Slave Lake FCSS – $1,500 for its Family Fun Night program; Slave Lake FCSS – $1,500 for its Anger Management program.
A report on council’s capital budget discussions in the May 4 Lakeside Leader got one item wrong. The decision, approved by council, is to return a troublesome section of Ranch Rd. to gravel. Or, as councillor Darren Fulmore put it to The Leader, council is “in favour of ripping it out, except me.”