By Karlene Skretting
Westwind Weekly News
During the April 28 Magrath council meeting, council was presented with the 2014 Audit, passed first reading of Bylaw 1189 which discusses the 2015 tax rates and passed a motion to spend $5,000 landscaping the Town Office property. They also agreed to give $600 towards Farmer’s Market advertising and help finance a summer student job at the Magrath Museum.
2014 Audit approved
Doug Wilde, on behalf of Mercer Wilde Group, who served as the Town’s auditor again this year, appeared before council to discuss the town’s 2014 audit last Tuesday. Magrath’s CFO Martin Woolf was also present at the meeting to help add context where necessary.
“Your responsibilities are to have systems in place that collect accounting data and records to make sure things are filled out appropriately for taxes and utilities and facility rentals,” said Wilde
He noted that the accounting firm does several walk through tests to assure that the general ledger is accurate, to provide assurance that the financial statements pick up all the accounting data and present it in accordance with Canadian Public Sector Accounting Standards.
“It is a clean audit report, which is a good thing for the Town of Magrath,” stated Wilde before briefly recapping the financial records for the year ending December 31, 2014
Overall there was a noticeable decrease in revenue. Last year’s figures showed $3,863,84 and 2014 totalled $3,403,221 in comparison.
“A large portion of that is due to the decrease in land property sales, we had more the prior year (2013). We also had fewer grants this year.”
On the expenditures side less was spent in 2014 than in 2013 predominately because of less grant money.
“This year we have popped above the line and are showing a net financial asset of $18,443 which means we are in great financial condition. A lot of times we have a negative number there because of a long-term debt of $1.1M that was borrowed for capital projects,” reported Wilde to council.
Counc. Gerry Baril made a motion to accept the auditors report as accepted, it was unanimously passed by everyone in attendance. Mayor Russ Barnett and Councillor Richard VanEe were absent from the meeting.
Bylaw #1189 2015 rates of taxation
Woolf appeared before council to provide context for Bylaw #1189, which authorizes the rates of taxation to be levied against assessable property in the Town of Magrath for the 2015 taxation year.
“The bylaw basically tells us that will we have just over $4.8 million in expenses. Revenue other than tax revenue will be $2.816 million. So the balance that we need to generate in taxes is $1.988 million.” said Woolf.
Of that the Town needs to collect Alberta School Foundation Fund (ASFF) taxes for Residential/Farmland of $432,806 and non-residential of $42,146 and then pay the Chinook Foundation senior housing $38,895.
Those three figures are included in the $1.988 million in taxes, reminded Woolf.
The Mill Rates don’t change significantly, but the overall tax will be calculated around 2.06 per cent. The biggest difference will be based on assessed value increase not because of a tax rate increase, explained Woolf.
The bylaw states that the minimum amount payable for property, as property tax, for general municipal purposes shall be $275 on vacant property and $450 on improved property.
“We put those up by $25 this year as opposed to last year to compensate for the same sort of percentage increase as our normal tax rates.”
Next year we talked about maybe bumping the minimum tax rate up quite significantly, said Woolf who suggested a $200 – $250 jump next year and then another $50 the following year to gradually get it closer to other communities.
“Just to give you an example Raymond’s is at a $1000 for improved property and $800 for vacant property.”
“We are certainly behind other communities,” acknowledged Counc. Brenda Beck.
“To me, if you have it high enough on bare land they would either decide to develop that property or turnaround and sell it to someone that would. And what we really want in this community is properties that are going to be used,” stated Woolf as his rational.
Council agreed that more discussion and information is needed before making any decision about next year’s taxes.
Councillor Oliver made a motion to approve first reading of Bylaw #1189. All were in favour and the first reading was passed. Council decided to do the second and third reading when the finance councilor and mayor were in attendance.
The full Bylaw can be found on the Town website following the third reading being passed, most likely on May 12.
Town Office landscape upgrade
Council unanimously approved to
spend $5,000 to upgrade the Town Office landscaping.
“Trevor (Millward) and I have looked into it, in some depth, and including an underground sprinkler system, we could beautify and clean up the property for under $5,000, said CAO Alston
“It will look nice and we can make it happen quickly”
Counc. Oliver expressed concern over spending a bunch of money and not knowing the future of the building but it was realized that it would be a longterm investment to improve the image of the downtown core regardless.
“I think we have the budget and the talent, lets get it done,”said Counc. Beck.
Counc. Baril agreed it wasn’t in the best interest for council to micromanage every decision and hold up the project. He made a motion to approve that the town administration will take over the responsibility of the landscaping upgrade at the Town Office with a $5,000 budget.
Farmer’s Market advertising money
During the roundtable reports Counc. Brian Oliver brought up the fact that the Farmer’s Market requested advertising money.
Counc. Oliver shared that $900 was paid to the Town for renting the Ice Arena for the Farmer’s Market last year and the Farmer’s Market Committee would like some of that money back to put towards advertising.
“If we want to encourage the Farmer’s Market, in my mind I don’t see an issue giving some of the money back,” stated a supportive Counc. Oliver.
Council gave seed money last year, as well, to help the Farmer’s Market get started reminded Counc. Baril.
“I motion that we give them $600 seed money to use towards advertising,” said Counc. Baril. All were in favour.
The money will come out of council’s advertising budget.
The Ag Society also received $900 from table and chair rentals in 2014 from the Farmer’s Market vendors and plan to give all that money back to go towards a large sign on the highway.
The Farmer’s Market committee hopes that more advertising will increase customers and committed vendors to make the Farmer’s Market a success and viable for years to come.
Magrath Museum summer student to be paid for by Town
“Just a big heads up that the museum got turned down for all assistance from the government for summer work students,” said Counc. Baril.
The Magrath Museum applied for three Canada Summer Jobs and were turned down for all three of them.
“They are basically saying their contribution to our constituency has topped out,” said Alston as to why.
“The museum doesn’t have the money to hire that many people,” as a non-profit reminded Counc. Baril.
Last year the Town gave the Museum a $1,000 towards paying the students’ wages.
The grant guidelines require that the organization add money on top of the grant hourly wage to pay the summer students at least minimum wage, if not more to attract talented and knowledgeable employees.
The Museum asked that their funding be increased to cover the cost of one student. CAO Alston confirmed that the Museum is hoping to receive $3,000 to do that.
“The thing I would ask council to realize is that is our Tourism Information Centre and without funding we have no ability to man the building for the summer months,” said Counc. Beck. “It is huge, to me, for tourism in Magrath.
“I make a motion that we increase their funding from $1,000 to $3,000 for the Magrath Museum to hire a summer student for 2015,” said Counc. Oliver. It was unanimously approved.
Council acknowledged that it is a good investment, but funding an extra $2,000 will be hard on the budget and may have to be swallowed up into other areas.
The Museum will take their funds from their annual Down Home Dinner Fundraiser to cover the cost of a second summer student said Counc. Baril.