Everywhere you look these days, people are trying to do the same with less. The M.D. of Lesser Slave River is no exception.
“We’re like everybody else,” Kerik tells The Leader. “Linear assessment has deteriorated; costs have escalated. We’ve had to reduce costs as much as possible while maintaining services.”
The ‘linear assessment’ Kerik refers to means mainly oilfield installations that the M.D. gets tax money from. Less of it translates to less money for the municipal government. But the demands for service don’t go down with it, or – as noted – the cost of doing business.
So how do you manage that?
“There’s not as much discretionary spending as usual,” Kerik says, referring to the 2019 budget as it stands. “It’ll be needs, not wants. We’ve cut a couple of positions.”
Kerik says when the budget process started, the M.D. was looking at a $4 million shortfall. That’s when they started whittling things down. The result is a proposed two per cent tax increase, across the board. Kerik says that should leave services levels pretty much on par, and the M.D. in the black.
“We’re in survival mode,” he says. “I think we’ll weather the storm.”
A couple of projects that will be proceeding this year are the re-routing of a section of the Old Smith Highway that is threatened by the river. Funding has been approved for it, Kerik says, and it should commence in 2019.
There’ll also be a few more applications of ‘oil pavement’ projects in selected spots. This is an alternative to the usual calcium dust-control treatments – more expensive, but it should last longer. One such application was done on Ranch Road and worked well, Kerik said. This year will see how it holds up on the heavier traffic on the Old Smith Highway.
Poplar Lane, Kerik says, will be fixed in the spring. The increased road gravelling program will continue in 2019. Kerik says the M.D. had fallen behind, “and you could tell.”
In the area of agricultural services, Kerik speaks enthusiastically about what new Ag Fieldman Barry Kolenosky brings to the M.D. His expertise even extends to planning and development, where Kolenosky will be helping out.
“We got lucky when we hired him,” Kerik says.
Asked how things are going with the Flatbush fire hall, Kerik gives an enthusiastic thumbs up. It’s the only fully-staffed hall in the regional service, he says. That leads to a related and not-so-good story – that of the state of the Mitsue Fire Hall.
“Unless there’s more support for it, it may have to be mothballed,” he says.
“I hate to say it, but if they get called out and only one or two people respond….? It costs a lot to maintain it and the money could be spent elsewhere.”