Lacombe County is planning an increase of 2.75 per cent in the tax rate for all classes of property, after councillors approved interim operating and capital budgets Dec. 20.
The operating budget is balanced with $41,845,820 in revenue and expenses. This represents an increase of $1.701 million from the 2012 budget.
The capital budget will see revenue and expenditures of $21,630,060.
The increase in tax rates will generate an additional $613,670 bringing the total amount collected through property taxes to $25,021,450. The balance of the operating budget is funded through federal and provincial grants, user and service fees, investment income and reserve transfers.
The budgets anticipate grants of $9,472,007 up from just over $8.5 million in 2012.
Reserves at the beginning of January were $53,629,640 and with transfers in and out will be $51,588,364 at the end of the 2013.
The capital budget is just over $3.5 million more than the 2012 budget. Included is almost $6.8 million for road projects, $1.748 million for equipment and vehicle purchases, $7.553 million for water and sewer services west of Highway 2 in the Blackfalds area, $950,000 for broadband internet (with Final Mile Rural Community Program grant funding contributing $712,500) and an $855,855 contribution for Bentley Emergency Services facility.
An additional $437,470 is collected through taxation by the county on behalf of the Lacombe Foundation to support the operation of their facilities.
While councillors approved the interim budgets in December, the final budgets and tax rates are not set until spring when the property tax levy for education purposes is determined by the province.
This is the third consecutive increase in residential and farmland rates and the fourth for non-residential (commercial and industrial) property. The residential and farmland rates remained steady from 2008 to 2010 after being decreased from the 2007 rate.
“As a cornerstone of its strategic plan, council has put a high priority on sustainable and financially viable levels of service for the current and future needs of our citizens,” stated a media release. “With this in mind, a thorough review process has enabled council to reduce costs in several areas in order to meet 2013 expenses with municipal tax rate increases of 2.75 per cent for residential and non-residential properties and farmland.”
“Every year council works through the difficult task of managing resources for the growing needs of its stakeholders in order to maintain a balance between present needs and future growth,” stated the release.
“The 2013 tax rate increase reflects the current cost of doing business, and maintains our position of having one of the lowest property tax rates in Alberta,” said County Commissioner Terry Hager. “Part of the increase can be attributed to the cost of living, and part to increased service levels in conservation management, weed control, road maintenance and snow plowing.”
Reeve Ken Wigmore said, “Council once again has worked through a detailed process with input from many sources in order to arrive at a fiscally responsible budget meeting our current needs and ensuring consistent service levels for our future. We pass the budget in one day, but it’s a careful process that takes many hours and days to complete.”