County could raise taxes to balance budget

Facing reduced revenues, the County of Stettler adopted an overall budget of just over $28 million with an emphasis on infrastructure and community support.

At its regular meeting Jan. 12, county council adopted an operating budget of almost $28.1 million which includes $1.587 million in capital projects.

“This is a very tight budget, but we are up for the challenge,” said chief administrative officer Tim Fox.

“We feel that our budget allows us to meet the needs of our residents, trim some of our excess and focus on being more efficient and accurate.”

In December, it was revealed that $3 million had to be cut from the budget to make it balanced.

“The 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,” said the budget document submitted to the council for adoption.

“After finalizing the figures, the budget for 2011 is conservative and tight, reflecting the fact that 2010 was a tough year on the local economy,” Fox said.

As a result of the slowdown in resource industries operating in the area, tax revenue projections are down over last year’s, according to Fox.

Commenting on the $28,098,219 of revenue projected for the 2011 budget, Fox said: “We were caught off guard by an unexpected and significant reduction to linear, machinery and equipment tax revenue in 2010 and have been proactive in predicting a realistic tax revenue number for the 2011 budget.”

Last year, the county lost $800,000 in revenue from linear taxes for power lines, pipelines and gas wells as a result of the economic downturn.

This year’s shortfall is expected to be no less than $1 million.

County of Stettler says there has not been a tax increase in the county for the last five years.

In view of the decline i n revenues, county council adopted a bylaw in December authorizing the council to borrow up to $3 million to meet current expenditures and obligations.

County is obliged to complete financing for projects under rural water strategy, which has received financing from the federal government under Building Canada program, a scheme designed to generate employment and growth in response to the economic downturn.