RM of St. Francois Xavier council gave local ratepayers an early Christmas gift when they voted on Dec. 17, 2013 to approve a 2014 budget that holds the line on municipal taxes.
CAO Robert Poirier said that the municipality’s steady, average 2.5% residential growth is serving to bring in enough extra revenue that the municipality is able to balance its budget without raising taxes.
However, he predicts an upcoming utility rate review could trigger a hike in the municipal sewer and water rates next year, as the cost of providing those services keeps increasing.
"The results of the rate review are presented to the PUB (Public Utilities Board)," he said, adding that the last rate increase for SFX residents happened in 2007.
The RM of St. Francois Xavier is a member of the Cartier Regional Water Co-op, and the co-op is planning to build a new water treatment plant in Headingley to serve new customers as far away as CentrePort, but Poirier said the plant’s cost shouldn’t have an impact on the municipality’s utility rate.
The 2014 budget includes a jump in operating costs attributed to lagoon expansion that’s estimated to cost $875,000. Poirier said the higher cost is covered by a $1-million revenue transfer from the municipal reserve fund.
"We don’t have to spend that money right away," he said, as the lagoon capacity is sufficient for the current population.
Council is also waiting to see if it can get government funding for this project.
The municipality’s reserve fund is projected over 20 years, with annual contributions made to cover future large expenses such as equipment purchases and facility upgrading.
"It’s enough to cover off most of the major expenditures," Poirier said.
The cost for protective services is up slightly, and he attributes this to more training and equipment for local volunteer fire fighters and the cost of hiring an emergency preparedness co-ordinator following the end of the C.a.S.H. network.
"Most of the cost increase is due to an active fire department, which is a positive thing," Poirier said.
While council voted to end widespread mosquito fogging within the village and other populated areas unless requested for a public gathering, the overall 2014 environmental development expense is higher than the previous year’s total.
"We’re trying to clear more drains and replace culverts," Poirier said.
The budget contains $65,000 allocated for a recreational facility, but Poirier said council has yet to designate a use for the money.
The public budget presentation is available at www.rm-stfrancois.mb.ca/budget_taxes.htm