May 16, 2023 meeting
Paying town bills by credit card
Town administration is proposing to set up a system whereby people can pay some town bills by credit card at the main office. This had been proposed before, council heard, but was turned town by the council at the time.
There’s a cost to the town, and a couple of options for recouping that cost from the customers were presented. One is to simply raise rates across the board. The other would be to charge a fee per use.
Council favoured the second option, which would not burden people who aren’t actually using credit cards to pay town bills.
The suggestion is to cap the amount that can be paid by credit card, as a way of reducing risk. This would be for the first year, to see how it goes.
Council accepted the report as information. Another report will be coming to council for a decision.
The town’s external auditor, Doyle & Co. had a representative at the meeting. Edward Cheung passed on the good news that the audit of the town’s 2022 books came up clean as a whistle.
Cheung called it “an unqualified opinion. No incidents of fraud, no disagreements with management.”
With that, town director of finance Roland Schmidt went over some of the numbers from last year. One of them – a budget surplus of $550,000 – raised an eyebrow or two, one of them belonging to councillor Brice Ferguson.
The municipality tries to find a balance between raising too little in taxes on one hand and raising too much on the other.
“Why such a large surplus?” he asked.
The bulk of it was due to budgeted salaries not being spent, Schmidt said. The town was short-staffed much of the time.
Councillor Steve Adams asked about an item in the report called ‘doubtful debt account.’ Schmidt said those are uncollected, overdue property taxes that could still be collected. The town has about $1 million in outstanding taxes, he said, of which “probably $450,000 is uncollectable.”
While they’re in the ‘doubtful’ category, efforts are still made to collect them. Otherwise, they may get written off.
Emergency management bylaw
Council gave all three readings to an amended version of the town’s emergency management bylaw. Among other things, it appoints the CAO as the director of emergency management, and various others as deputies.
Mayor Ward had no problem complying with a request to proclaim June 17, 2023 Lemonade Day in Slave Lake, which she did after council passed a motion by Steve Adams to make it so.
Lemonade Day is an educational event organized by Community Futures, whereby children learn how to run a small business for a day – that business being a lemonade stand.
Ward’s proclamation ended by encouraging “every citizen to purchase a cup of lemonade…..to demonstrate how our community cares for the future of our youth.”
State of the lake (formerly Mayor’s corner)
Councillor Ali Mouallem offered a “pat on the back” to the Chamber of Commerce for organizing the Lake Life Expo trade show. The display of vendors made a very good impression he said. The turnout from the public wasn’t that great, but it’s a good start, he said, “and something to build on.”
Councillor Shawn Gramlich mentioned the 10th anniversary of the Icebreaker Hockey Game is this year, and it’ll be something different than usual. Organizers are teaming up with the Chamber of Commerce and various sponsors to bring a free concert “to kick off Riverboat Daze.” It’ll be Gord Bamford, on Wednesday, July 5, outdoors at the Multi Rec Centre.
Wrapping things up, mayor Ward said Riverboat Daze will have a Friday evening parade, a “downtown retail event” on the Saturday and fireworks. Other pieces are being added, she said.