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Thursday, 06 April 2017 03:40

Town of Gull Lake dealing with a difficult budget

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A reduction in funding from the provincial government along with the cost of the landfill transition will have a significant impact on the Town of Gull Lake’s budget for 2017.

The 2017-18 provincial budget includes a reduction in the grants-in-lieu of taxes to municipalities. In the case of Gull Lake, that amount is $26,868. The town will also receive $4,407 less in municipal revenue sharing based on provincial sales tax earnings.
“Certainly with the downturn in the oil revenue and everything we should certainly respect the position that the government is in and we all have to do our part to help get out of that, but we were slightly surprised here,” Mayor Blake Campbell said. “We expected a dip in the revenue sharing for sure, but we didn’t expect the grants-in-lieu to be cut.”
He noted the grants-in-lieu reduction is a significant amount for a small community such as Gull Lake with a population of just over 1,000 people.
“For our town in particular this year, we’re looking at some other factors that are impacting us financially a bit and next year we have a landfill that needs to be transitioned to a transfer station,” he said.
In October 2016, the Clarendon Hotel in the town was destroyed in a fire. The recent cleanup of this lot at a total cost of $107,671 became an unexpected and additional expense for the Town of Gull Lake.
A base tax was implemented in the town a few years ago as an infrastructure levy. The money raised in that manner has so far largely been used to replace and repair sidewalks.
“We have 100 paved streets in even our small town and the life expectancy of a street is about 50 years,” he said. “So we have a lot of streets that are starting to approach their life expectancy and even what we’re doing on the lot taxes is not going to be enough over time. There are some provincial and federal grants that at some point we would be able to take hold of, but you also need some money to be able to do that, because most of those grants are matching.”
In the shorter term, the change to a transfer station for waste disposal will represent a significant cost for the Town of Gull Lake. Up to now waste has been disposed in trenches at the local landfill site, but under the requirements of the provincial Ministry of Environment this method is not allowed anymore. Any future trenches will have to properly engineered in accordance with environmental standards.
“Basically we were told this year that we had to make a decision for next year either to go with an engineered trench or a transfer station,” Campbell said. “When we looked at the cost of trenches versus the transfer station, both are significant in cost, but by far it is more expensive to continue digging holes.”
The cost of constructing a transfer station at the landfill site will be about $130,000. This cost will be split between the 2017 budget and next year’s budget.
Council is still finalizing the budget for 2017, but on March 28 a post was written on the Town of Gull Lake website to make the community aware of the current financial challenges. For Campbell it appears as if a tax increase might be inevitable to deal with the additional costs in this year’s budget.
“We’re going to look at all of our options first, but given the two projects that I mentioned and then cuts on top of that no doubt we’re going to have to increase taxes to offset that,” he said.

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Matthew Liebenberg