Looking back 2014 was quite a year, the first full year with this council a group of individuals that have come together and worked very well as a team. It's good to work with a group where everybody respects each other, and their different opinions.
We had many challenges, hate to use the term "legacy issues" because from 2011-2013 I sat in the vast majority of council meetings and heard that phrase thrown around again and again but we were left lots of them. Yes these "legacy issues" are a pain in the ass and they will continue for a while yet, lets remember lawyers don't get rich by moving fast.
I doubt very few municipalities have faced the challenge of having to rebuild their total administrative team right after an election. But we did, and now we have an administrative team that is working well together and moving us in the right direction. Even so we can not loose sight of the fact that they were not all in place until June, by the time they became familiar with all the issues in their individual areas the year was not far from over.
Budget for 2014 was a mess, our CAO had to hire the rest of his team, run the municipality and try to build a budget with a brand new council, comprised of six members who have never worked through a municipal budget previously. So we basically took the 2013 budget renamed it the 2014 budget, and made sure there was no tax increase. Over the year we got some surprises little did we know that the 2013 budget did not include any dollars for gravel and salt for the winter season.
Between administration and ourselves we have rebuilt some of the relationships, the swimming pool is back being operated by the previous society and is doing well. We are working on resolving issues with the previous fire departments, we have a much better working relationship with CUPE and we just worked out a new agreement with the SPCA.
We are getting along with our neighbors we are no longer asking them to give up part of their properties and pay us to take it of their hands. Next week we are meeting with some of our neighbors to look at opportunities for us to work together.
The survey on the branding/logo was completed (for a cost of $200) nobody on council had the desire to spend another $330,000 dealing with this issue. But it was a big issue during the election and the public deserved the opportunity to voice their opinion and they did to the tune of almost 800 completed surveys.
Looking ahead 2015 is going to be filled with many issues that we have to deal with.
We have the Albert Stella Arena, we should be getting test results soon, which should provide us the information to move forward on this issue.
The budget process continues, Jan 8 2-5pm is our next meeting, if you have been following my previous posts you can see there is a lot that we have to deal with. I think everybody understands that our facilities, infrastructure and equipment fleets are all in dire shape. Unfortunately without acquiring a large debt load, and enormous tax increases we can not fix all of the problems in one year. No matter how much justification can be provided for everything on administration's list.
We are ultimately going to have to make tough choices and yes not everybody will be happy.
The great big unknown for us is the situation in Edmonton, our Premier as told us a number of times now that we are going to have a revenue shortfall of $6-7 billion. Not unlike us (just on a much larger scale) the province is going to have to make tough decisions and most people will not be happy. I will be shocked if the provincial dollars coming to municipalities is unaffected.
Our collective agreement with CUPE expires at midnight today and bargaining for a new agreement will begin soon.
We are hoping to have our budget process concluded by the end of January, then we will have to wait for the provincial budget and the ASFF before we can set our mill rate for the coming year. Even at that point council still has the option to change the budget if they so desire.
Both development and real estate sales were up substantially in 2014 hopefully that trend will continue.
For the first time in quite a few years there are indications that our assessment base is growing.
We have an economic development board that is bringing forth some good ideas on promoting our community.
I'm hopeful during the next year, that we reach out again for the public's input on important issues. For a relativity low dollar amount using our utility bills and municipal web site we have a great opportunity to improve the democratic process and allow the people that pay the bills to provide their input more than just every four years.
I'm sure there are things that I have missed, I am sure somebody will jog my memory.
Here's hoping that 2015 is a good year for all of us. Happy New Year