County adopts budgets reaching $34.5 million

Taxpayers in the County of Stettler will get a break in their taxes this year after council adopted a 2010 operating budget of $33.11 million and capital budget of $1.38 million at its regular meeting Feb. 10.

Taxpayers in the County of Stettler will get a break in their taxes this year after council adopted a 2010 operating budget of $33.11 million and capital budget of $1.38 million at its regular meeting Feb. 10.

The 2010 operating and capital budgets focus on infrastructure and community support while continuing to showcase the county’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and accountability., said chief administrative officer Tim Fox.

He said the budget for 2010 is conservative, reflecting the fact that 2009 was a tough year on the local economy and as a result of the slowdown in local resource industries, tax revenue projections are down about 4.6 per cent over last year.

“Council has made it perfectly clear that this budget will not have any increase in the mil rate for the upcoming year despite the decrease in revenue,” said Reeve Earl Marshall.

“This budget reflects the county’s commitment to being fiscally responsible, fair and accountable in all aspects of county operations and strives to provide the best value for the tax dollar possible for all of its ratepayers.”

The county anticipates revenue of just under $34.49 million from taxes ($17.5 million) and other revenue coming from provincial and federal grant programs, sales and service and transfers from reserves to make up the difference, said Fox.

Expenditures were calculated and researched diligently to ensure that the county residents are getting as much out of their tax dollar as possible. transportation services takes the major share of the budget with just over $13 million allocated to road construction, road rejuvenation, road maintenance and gravelling. water services takes over as the second largest expenditure item, with just over $9.5 million dollars being spent on water and water related services in the coming year.

The total budget for expenditures in 2010 will be very close to revenues at $34.47 million and will leave the county with a surplus just over $20,000.

The capital budget, included in the operating budget, totaled $1.38 million and includes a new equipment purchases for infrastructure and operations and sgricultural services, a new fire engine and renovations for the Byemoor and Stettler fire halls, the completion of the Donalda fire hall and new map plotter for the planning and development department.

Budget highlights include:

• 19.3 kilometers of new road construction and 535 km of gravelling will be completed in 2010.

• Council has budgeted $50,000 this year in order to start annual increases in reserves for bridge replacements, recognizing that the current and projected provincial funding will not even come close to what is required to sustain the future cost.

• Completion of southeast phase and central phase of the County of Stettler Rural Water Servicing Strategy. These two phases mark the beginning of the strategy’s implementation with other phases to be completed as main trunk lines are continually being built.

• Funding for Stettler and District Handibus Society will continue – despite the cancellation of the provincial government program which pays for the county’s contribution to the Handibus, Council remains committed to safe and reliable transportation for the entire community, and will continue to fund the Handibus with a $16, 764 contribution.

• Stettler county will continue to replace fire pumper trucks in the county as the present fleet has reached the maximum life under provincial regulations to maintain our accreditation (25 to 30 years).

“We have a plan to achieve this and will mean substantial costs over the next decade,” said Fox.

“This year we have budgeted for just over $500,00 for the second payment on a pumper tanker in Byemoor and $130,000 for upgrades and renovations to the fire halls in Stettler and Byemoor.

“Regionalization of fire protection in the entire county is still a priority for council and administration,” said Reeve Marshall.

The county provides administration services for Stettler District Ambulance Association, Stettler Waste Management Authority and the Shirley McClellan Regional Water Services Commission and the county went to a cost accounting system to recover are true costs.

-Recreation funding

Stettler Recreation Board reserve funding

Council approved a staff recommendation to grant $2,500 to Kanata Hall to replace the furnace, with funds from the operating reserve for the recreation board.