County adopts $23.2-million budget with ‘stable growth’

The County of Stettler has approved a budget of just more than $23.2 million for 2013, with a minimal tax increase expected next year.

The County of Stettler has approved a budget of just more than $23.2 million for 2013, with a minimal tax increase expected next year.

At its monthly meeting last week, county council adopted a budget of $23,237,641, down from $26.9 million from 2012.

“We predict a three per cent increase in general revenue, as all indications show that our assessment for 2013 should be stable with some growth,” said Tim Fox, the country’s chief administrative officer.

“However, with the possibility of shutdowns of machinery and equipment in the oil field, we should be aware of a potential decrease in tax revenue for 2014, unless the economy improves.”

The new budget has decreased from this year, because many projects planned for this year have been postponed, he said.

Several projects supported from Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) provincial funding allocated to such projects, however, will assist the county to complete the Red Willow waste water and water distribution systems, the South Buffalo Lake water and waste water infrastructure demands, the Bio Gas project and landfill upgrades, office and shop replacements, regional fire apparatus and building needs, bridge replacements, complete rural water distribution master plan and hard surfacing requirements for hamlet and road networks.

The new budget includes funding for the county’s portion of possible funding for water-truck fill stations at Fenn and Red Willow.

“We are projected to utilize the remainder of the Building Canada Fund and transferring from unused waterline reserves to fund the $2 million Erskine reservoir project,” Fox said.

Red Willow collection system was postponed until 2014, with an estimated cost of $1 million.

For next year, the county reduced funding after council decided to reduce representation on various committees, such as Boom Town Trail, Trail of the Buffalo, Canadian Badlands, Battle River Watershed Alliance and Red Deer River Watershed Alliance.

The budget also reflects increase in staff, with two new full-time positions in engineering service and new grader beat, while protective services reduced staff to one full-time with health and safety duties being absorbed by agricultural services.

“Continuing our progressive approach to road maintenance, we have included $500,000 in the budget under contracted services for hard-surfacing trials,” Fox said.

Five more miles on three roads have been prioritized for improvements, as part of the county’s annual road construction program.

They include north of Erskine on Township Road 392 between Highway 835 and Range Road 204, north of Stettler on Township Road 392 between Range Road 200 and 195, and south of Botha and east of Big Valley on Range Road 184 between Township Road 360 and SW 9-36-18- W4, along with structural repairs.

“Roads are costing a lot of money to maintain and we try to focus on resource roads,” said the county’s director of engineering, Rick Green, who addressed council.

The 2012 budget anticipated creating a $435,500 transfer to the reserves for the proposed Waste to Energy project, which will be carried forward to offset any costs related with the project, Fox said.

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