Sackville is looking at a “hold the line” budget for 2021, according to town treasurer Michael Beal.
Town council hosted its first meeting of the budget season on Monday.
Members of the public were invited to speak to the priorities they’d like to see for the town in 2021, and groups and organizations that receive town funding were invited to present.
Beal explained that after Monday’s session, council would hold a planning session, and then the town’s managers would make budget requests for their respective departments in early October. The presentation of a first draft of the budget will happen October 19 and 20, and the plan is to approve a budget by November 9, 2020.
Beal says he met with Service New Brunswick to find out estimated tax revenue numbers for the town. “It is projected that our tax base will see less than 1% tax base increase for 2021,” Beal told council on Monday. Service New Brusnwick indicated it would not drop into a decrease, but would fall somewhere between 0 and 1% increase. “So all managers will be proceeding with looking at a ‘hold the line’ budget moving forward,” said Beal, “with some changes, as suggested through our process.”
Most of the presentations to council were from previously funded groups and organizations. Renaissance Sackville, Sackville Minor Hockey, the Sackville Skate Club, Rural Rides, Live Bait Theatre, Sappyfest and Levee on the Lake all presented, mostly reporting on what they had done with previous funding from the town.
Two residents presented their ideas for new or continued budget priorities.
Wendy Alder called for beautification of the area around Exit 506. Alder talked about further implementing the existing plan for Exit 506 to be developed into a village-type neighbourhood, with “sidewalks, bicycle lanes, hiking and biking trails, [and] two new parks.”
The town recently approved a large road reconstruction project for Cattail Ridge at exit 506, which includes sidewalks, but stops short of adding cycling infrastructure.
Alder suggested that council continue this investment in 2021, and bring in elements from the 2018 plan such as park benches and trees. She also entertained some other ideas such as installing a Hollywood style Sackville sign in the area. Alder suggested a ballpark budget of $50,000 for the projects, though she suggested much could be accomplished with smaller amounts.
Another resident, Alex Thomas, made a pitch for further investment in the town’s skate park. Thomas says the value of the skatepark lies in its accessibility. The park is used by all ages, and provides for relatively cheap, accessible activities like skateboarding, scootering and biking, he says.
Thomas said he’s willing to consult with local skateboarders and other park users to come up with a plan. He suggested the current park could use improvements such as resurfacing, the addition of more entry-level activities, and more concrete features. He pointed out that while the skatepark requires an upfront capital investment, concrete features have low maintenance costs, and the park provides recreation opportunities without the need for coaches and administrators. “A well developed skate park offers accessible recreation that reproduces itself,” he said.
Among the organizations that presented were two Sackville based festivals. The 15-year-old Sappyfest, which received $4,000 from the town this past year, and the new Levee on the Lake, which received a $12,000 grant from the town this summer.
Levee on the Lake made the announcement that it will be back for 2021, and is now being run under a newly minted not for profit organization called the Intangible Culture and Heritage Council of New Brunswick. Levee organizers Shelley Chase and Stacey Read are now employed by that organization.
The plan for 2021 is to host a single event in late August, but have it span four days.
“Levee on the Lake will continue in 2021,” says Shelley Chase, “but it will be once, and it will be a four-day event. So Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And it will be a mix of ticketed programming and free programming.”
“We still want to keep the component of doing something on the lake,” says Chase, but the plan is to increase accessibility to the event by expanding to land venues around Middle Sackville.
Sappyfest treasure Jeff MacKinnon outlined the successes of this year’s festival, including the collaborative night of projections on the Cube, a publication of written work, and various live and recorded musical performances.
MacKinnon says it’s still to early to say whether Sappyfest will go ahead under the restrictions it did this year, or if there will be a return to the traditional festival. But he stressed that if a traditional Sappyfest is in the cards, the organization will be requesting more funding from the town than it has received in the past.
“If Sappyfest next year were to take place in its normal fashion, we would be asking, like we have in the last few years, for more funding than we have achieved in the past,” says MacKinnon. “We need more staff to help Sappyfest happen.” He says the last normal Sappyfest in 2019 stretched volunteers and the Board of Directors too thin. “So to maintain a high degree of security for patrons and to continue to focus more of our efforts on community outreach, we do need additional funding for at least one other staff member to join the Sappyfest team,” said MacKinnon.
Neither Sappyfest nor Levee on the Lake organizers presented council with specific numbers in terms of their funding request. Although Levee on the Lake was granted $12,000 in a direct council decision this summer, its expected they will be applying for a grant from the town along with Sappyfest and other community organizations for 2021.