The Village of Big Valley council decided to discuss their 2020 audit at the next council meeting. The decision was made at the Nov. 18 regular meeting of council, held one week later than normal because of Remembrance Day.
Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Tracy Mindus gave councillors an update on the audit by informing them she had spoken to accounting firm Gitzel & Co. in Stettler about in-person or online presentations.
Mindus stated she still has work to do “fixing significant deficiencies” in the 2020 audit. Councillors agreed to table the item and discuss it at the December council meeting.
Councillors read a letter from a Big Valley property owner requesting tax relief for a lot located at Lot 9, Block 6 Plan 1725AN.
“At tax time I had spoken to the CAO in regards to my concern of the cost of taxes for our purchased lot that is unserviced and less than one-half useful due to the deep large ditch that the village has their culvert going through under the road to the park,” stated the letter, with the author’s name removed.
“We have no problem paying our share of the owed taxes, however with the increase and the total useful land being considered we feel that the tax rate for an unserviced less than usable land is a little unfair.
“We have not paid them as we were waiting for the election as previously the council chose to stand by the charged cost as per conversation with the CAO that I had to contact after never getting a reply.”
Mindus stated Big Valley has a property tax threshold of $37,000; below that assessed value, property owners all pay a flat amount of $600 per year.
Mayor Houle said he was opposed to this request. Coun. Gail Knudson added that if council approves this request they may have to consider others going forward.
Councillors unanimously agreed to deny the request.
Coun. Knudson mentioned to her peers she would like to see council meeting agendas posted online prior to the date so the public knows what’s being discussed at the council table.
Knudson stated the public should know they can get a copy of the agenda if they want one and that it’s very important for the council to be transparent.
Noting that the agenda is often posted on the village office’s front door and at the local post office, Knudson stated it would be nice to see it available in electronic form and paper copies as well if the public wishes.
CAO Mindus stated she contacted Municipal Affairs about the agenda issue and was told there are no laws forcing municipalities to provide agendas to the public, but rather it’s up to the council to decide how its handled.
Councillors decided to have Mindus draft a new procedural bylaw, including a requirement for agendas to be available to the public online and in paper form, to return at a future council meeting.
Councillors read a report on free local gym memberships for the Big Valley Fire Department members.
Readers should note Mayor Dan Houle excused himself from this discussion as he is a firefighter while Deputy Mayor Amber Hoogenberg took the chair.
Mindus reported she contacted the local gym and the owner stated that the business would charge full price for the memberships but she herself would chip in and pay for half the membership costs.
The owner quoted $420 for a one year membership while six months was $252.
Councillors decided to offer six month gym memberships to the fire department based on the information in Mindus’ report.
Councillors approved in principle an event for the summer of 2022, while forwarding the financial end of the request to their upcoming budget deliberations.
Mindus presented a letter of request from the Canadian Northern Society which proposed “Railway Days” this coming July. They were asking the village’s permission to hold the event at the railway station, rail yards and roundhouse grounds while also asking for a cash donation of $2,000.
Coun. Knudson added that the village should probably sign a formal agreement with the group to ensure the sites are returned to their pre-event condition.
Councillors unanimously approved the event but decided to forward the cash request to budget deliberations.
Mindus brought back an item from the October meeting, the Parkland Regional Library System 2022 budget, which had previously been described as a zero-increase budget.
Mindus stated a mistake had occurred at the October meeting where councillors accepted the budget for information, however it actually requires a resolution to adopt it. Councillors unanimously did so.
Mindus presented to councillors a request for FCSS funding for the Kids Christmas event in the amount of $1,500.
She also mentioned that the upcoming Christmas in the Village event also gets an annual grant of $1,600 from council.
Councillors approved both funding requests.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review