County trims budget from provincial funding cuts

With major funding cuts from the deficit provincial budget, the County of Stettler has trimmed its own budget

With major funding cuts from the deficit provincial budget, the County of Stettler has trimmed its own budget with no impact on taxes.

“These cuts mean we are tightening our belts while holding the line on taxes for 2013,” stated a report from chief administrative officer Tim Fox presented to council at its April monthly meeting.

County leaders said the cuts might not be that harsh.

“It’s good for taxpayers that we will have no tax increases,” Reeve Wayne Nixon said.

That is expected to be aided by other funding resources.

“We have a property assessment increase, so we feel that that will help cover the shortfall,” said assistant chief administrative officer Yvette Cassidy, who presided at the meeting in the absence of Fox.

County staff has was instructed by the CAO to suggest ways to cut three per cent of costs from their budgets to reflect the shortfall from the provincial budget, and to address repairs to the Donalda bridge, and requests for funding to upgrade Stettler Recreation Centre for the library and parking lot, hard-surfacing trials and the county office main parking lot.

“We will be drawing $354,000 from bridge reserves to make up for the loss of provincial funding,” Fox said in his report.

“We will also be cutting $769,000 out of the operating and capital budgets to balance the other provincial funding cuts and new commitments to the seed-cleaning plant and SRC upgrades.”

He said tough times are also expected for the next few years.

“Council will be faced with a number of challenges in its deliberations over the 2014 budget that will be discussed later this year,” Fox said.

Funding from the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) program will be reduced by 50 per cent next year and completely eliminated in 2015.

For the past few years, this has helped the county funding about $400,000 for recreation, library and museum projects, Cassidy said.

As a result, the county has reduced funding for special recreation projects to $50,000 from $175,000, also considering that this year’s requests were well below that maximum level.

“If we want to have more people active in their community projects and organizations, they should get out and get involved in fundraising and volunteer,” Coun. Greggory Jackson said.

For infrastructure projects, county administration is taking steps to consider new technologies to repair the county office parking lot, and other roads to make them more durable and cost-efficient.

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