Questions remain around Spring Bay Budget

·3 min read

In the meeting, they said the Hamlet would have 30 days to resubmit their budget. Council discussed no additional information during the meeting around what issues had occurred in the proposal.

A source said a meeting between the council and the Spring Bay Hamlet Board occurred regarding the budget and a proposed mill rate in May. The legislation allows an OH to propose their own mill rate, which may differ from the rest of the RM. When LMT asked the RM why the meeting was not public, CAO Brandi Morissette responded that “This meeting was not a Council Meeting or a Committee of Council Meeting.” A Ministry of Government relations spokesperson has confirmed that these meetings are not subject to the council meeting rules and procedures unless they occur within a council meeting.

LMT posed the following additional questions to the RM, which have gone unanswered.

While we couldn’t get the present Reeve, Bob Schmidt, on record, former RM of McKillop Reeve, Howard Arndt, said that one year at the Spring Bay Annual meeting, a different mill rate had been unofficially brought up. He said during the two years he was Reeve, no organized Hamlet had made an official request “because it would have been shut down before it even started.” Regarding alternate mill rates, Arndt said, “it’s financially unfair to anybody besides the Hamlet that is asking that. It’s economically unfair.”

Arndt also said regarding the risks to the RM if an OH had a different mill rate. “If [an unorganized hamlet’s] mill rate was dropped it would be contributing less money into general revenue. Which means that shortfall would be put onto the shoulders of everyone else.”

Ardnt also said, “It’s my opinion that once it happens with one organized hamlet others will follow and it will just become even more inequitable.”

We asked the Ministry of Government Relations about the requirements around an organized hamlet’s tax levy account. A spokesperson from the Ministry of Government Relations said, “Legislation does not require a RM to keep a fully cash-funded account for an OH. Monies in the hamlet account are used for payments made on behalf of the OH as designated in the OH budget.”

When asked about the responsibility around money for an OH’s tax levy account, the spokesperson from the Ministry of Government Relations said, “While the OH is declared by the minister through Minister’s Order, the RM council remains the governing body of the OH and ultimately has financial stewardship of the OH assets and liabilities.”

“The RM must keep separate ledger accounts for the OH based on revenue and expenses and be prepared to fund any budgeted or emergency expenses of the OH. This could include using any accumulated reserve funding.”

“The RM shall allocate to the hamlet account, all grant monies received on behalf of the OH and at least 40% and not more than 75% (as agreed upon between the OH and the RM) municipal tax revenue and fees.”

“Section 32 of The Municipal Regulations states that unexpended funds are to be accumulated and reserved to the credit of the OH account; it does not state that this must be a cash account.”

While the RM has failed to respond to questions around what appears to be an ongoing matter between the RM and the Organized Hamlet, it is notable that the RM Council dedicated an entire page to Organized Hamlet’s Tax Levy Account in the May edition of the McKillop newsletter. The information detailed the legislation and a list of expenditures the tax levy is to be used for, noting after each that assets attained are the property of the RM and that an Organized Hamlet’s Municipal tax revenues go into the RM’s general revenue account.

Communications to the Chair of the Spring Bay Board, Karen Kramer, have gone unreturned.

We will be following this story as it develops.

Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times

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