(File photo)

(File photo)

Budget deliberation meeting held by Stettler council

After some deliberation, the Town of Stettler council is sticking by its guns to not introduce a tax increase in 2022.

Council met on May 10 to discuss the 2022 budget and proposed tax rate.

In total, the overall spending for the town will be $20.2 million, $11.45 million of which will be paid for through “revenue other than taxes.”

The remaining 43 per cent, or about $8.8 million, will be raised through municipal taxes.

Even keeping the tax rate for non-residential and residential the same as last year, the town will still raise an additional $17,900 thanks to new growth.

It should be noted that depending on a property’s assessed value in 2022, one’s tax bill could still go up or down.

Another note from the budget deliberations is that the zero increase affects the municipal portion of taxes only. The requisition for schools, put in place by the province, is increasing by 0.55 per cent for residential tax rates and 1.6 per cent for non-residential.

These requisitions are collected by the Town of Stettler on behalf of the provincial government, and the town is required to pay the bill whether it is collected or not.

“We do a lot of work in November and December on our interim operating budget,” said chief administrative officer Greg Switenky.

“At this time, we do subtle changes.”

The difference presented between the current budget and the interim budget is just over $1,200.

With a zero-increase budget, the town is still able to put some money into reserves and budget for capital projects, as well as maintain —or increase — funding for community partners such as seniors housing, the library, and the Heartland Youth Centre.

According to Switenky, the zero-increase budget for 2022 is being done with plans for a two per cent increase in 2023 and 2024, as well as slight increase to water, sewer, and garbage fees.

The zero-increase did not sit well with all councillors, with Coun. Cheryl Barros advocating for a one per cent increase to both residential and non-residential in 2022.

“I’m worried about what next year will bring us,” said Barros.

“I think we need to to start planning for the future and not hammer (the taxpayers).”

While council generally agreed that they need to start planning for the future, the majority agreed that with the volatility of the last two years and the uncertainty still ahead due to the pandemic that 2022 was not the time for an increase.

Council instructed administration to bring back a zero-increase tax bylaw to the next council meeting.

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