Lockie McLean, mayor of the Town of Stonewall (Katelyn Boulanger/Stonewall Argus and Teulon Times)
Stonewall council hosted its public hearing for the town’s 2017 budget April 12 where they announced a 1.9% increase to the general municipal mill rate as compared to last year.
“When you have a 1.9% tax increase, I think that it’s very responsible in terms of all the demands that you have when you take into account all the things that you can’t control,” mayor Lockie McLean said.
“I think the big highlight is that we had a surplus last year walking into this year and like a lot of governments, (we) want to have good cash flow for our town and I think with this year we really put a clamp on spending. We’ve also made sure that we’ve put a lot of money into our reserves this year,” he continued.
According to the financial plan, the allotment to the reserve fund for 2017 is $617,600 which is an increase of $21,750 from last year.
McLean said council is very optimistic about new taxes being added because of construction in Stonewall, which could result in additional funds for the town.
“When we planned the budget, we didn’t plan on our optimism. We planned with a very conservative amount coming from taxes added so the net result is that when the year ends, we hope there is a lot more (tax money) coming in than what we planned for in the budget,” McLean said.
This year’s budget sees the town invest in projects with the hopes of future expansion in Stonewall.
An investment in new radio frequency water meters for every home and every business in Stonewall will take place this year. The total cost of the project will be $860,000 with $430,000 of the cost coming from the gas tax reserve and the other half coming from the Manitoba Water Services Board.
According to the mayor, these meters will provide much more accurate administration for water and sewer billings that are sent out to residents.
Another major project set to start in 2017 is expanding the lagoon project. More information on the project will be forthcoming but the estimated total cost of the project before grants will be $5,803,487 as laid out in the current financial plan.
“It’s our intent to start the project this year and finish it off early next year,” McLean said.
He acknowledged that this is a huge project for the town but thinks now is the time to get it underway.
“One of the key (reasons to get) this project done right now is to take advantage of two things, the grants that might be available through various levels of government in terms of infrastructure and we’re working hard on that, but we know for the town to grow, we have to (get this project done) and the cost to borrow money right now is almost free because the interest rates are so low. We can tap into significant grant money and low interest rates now, which will save considerable money for the tax payer,” he explained.
Mayor McLean indicated that anyone looking for a detailed breakdown of expenditures could contact the town office for the information.
“(Residents) pick you, they elect you to look out for them and to make sure that you’re not wasteful when it comes to the tax payers money and to make sure that you make decisions that benefit the people in Stonewall,” McLean added hoping residents would see this in this year’s budget.