Farmland property owners will see minimal increases in property taxes, as the County of Stettler finalized its operating and capital budget after provincial funding cuts.
At its monthly meeting in May, county council adopted a revised budget of $29,401,675 to reflect funding cuts in provincial funding this spring and reduced revenue in linear property assessment and a downturn in the oil and gas industry.
“We tried to balance the budget without unnecessary burden on the taxpayers,” said Tim Fox, chief administrative officer.
“Average costs of taxes will be the same, if not less.”
If assessment goes up, taxes for municipal services will go up, and decrease if assessment is lower, he said as the county deals with reduced taxation and funding revenues.
“We’ll have to definitely work hard next year to deal with continued cuts and revenue.”
For farmland properties, the millrate rose by half a mill to 10.4408, as the only millrate to change.
“Farmers I have talked to don’t mind this increase when it will be paying for improvements in the their areas,” Coun. Joe Gendre said.
That will provide the county with additional funding of about $60,000, Fox said.
Millrates for other properties classes will remain the same as 2012.
This year, the county will lose more than $500,000.
“We saw a reduction of $200,000 this year from taxation from a downturn in the oil and gas industry with several wells shut in,” Fox said.
“Next year will be tough. It declines every year.”
Revenue of linear property tax has dropped by about $100,000 while the provincial Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) program cut operating funds in half this year to $174,000 and will be eliminated next year.
As county departments were requested to cut expenses by to essential services and programs, the county trimmed expenses, with $750,000 cut from public works with two staff positions eliminated.
To repair the much-needed Donalda Bridge, the county has taken out $162,000 from reserves to pay for the project estimated at $354,000 and now opened to tenders.
During the provincial budget, funding was eliminated for bridge projects for counties and municipal districts.