The County of Stettler wrote off a significant number of oil and gas taxes deemed un-collectable during the Dec. 14 council meeting.
According to Sharon Larson, the county’s tax and assessment clerk, the accounts presented for write-off were for a number of defunct oil and gas companies who have abandoned wells to the Orphan Well Fund, leaving the municipality unable to collect.
In total, 20 accounts worth over $85,500 were written off allowing the county to apply for the Provincial Education Requisition Credit, which refunds a portion of the county’s education requisition based on the written off amount.
The $85,500 reflects uncollected taxes on oil and gas properties from 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.
Stettler County council has approved the interim budget for 2023.
While council has underwent a number of budget workshops throughout the fall to prepare the 2023 budget, council is still unprepared to pass the final budget; instead of the final budget, the 2022 budget was passed as the interim budget.
Under the Municipal Government Act, a municipality must have a budget in place by the start of any given year so that expenses can continue being paid.
With the interim budget passed, the members of council will have some time to pass the final budget, something which will likely happen sometime in the spring.
Cost of living
Given the drastic spike in costs over the last year due to inflation, County of Stettler staff received a three per cent cost-of-living adjustment.
Administration based the three per cent increase on the 6.8 per cent inflation witnessed in Alberta during 2022 and by seeing what other county’s of similar size were doing.
The cost-of-living increase among the various counties ranged from 2 per cent proposed for Red Deer County on the bottom end and Flagstaff County which is proposing a 6.5 per cent increase.
“We felt that three per cent was right,” said chief administrative officer Yvette Cassidy.
Stantec Engineering Services has provided a cost for work to date on the Gadsby rural waterline.
So far, costs are sitting just under $150,000, an estimated 3.7 per cent of the cost of the total project.
According to Cassidy, the county has not paid for any of the engineering work to date, but this amount should be pretty close to the final number for engineering expenses.
The funds will be paid from the Canadian Community-Building Fund, which is the former Gas Tax Fund.
Recreation special project funding
During the latest intake of recreation special project requests, 10 projects totalling just under $86,000 were applied for.
After reviewing the projects, the Stettler Regional Recreation Board has recommended seven projects, totalling just under $49,500, move forward out of the 2023 budget.
The Botha Community Centre has been approved $5,000 for a dishwasher purchase, the Donalda Agricultural Society has been approved around $3,400 for the installation of janitorial sinks, the Rochon Sands Hall Recreation Association has been approved $10,000 for a hot water tank replacement and tennis court repairs, the Red Willow Agricultural Society has been approved around $14,000 for roof repairs, the Stettler and District Agricultural Society has been approved around $12,000 for hearts, and the Linda Hall Society has been approved for $5,000 to go towards fencing.
Coun. Justin Stevens, a member of the rec. board, noted that the board found concerns with the bottom three projects and that they had been returned to the applicants with notes so that they may potentially be successful during the next intake.
In addition, Stevens presented an amendment to the request for council decision, asking that the write off of water for the local outdoor arenas in Erskine, Botha and Byemoor be included in the recreation funding, which was carried.
County peace officer communications
Stettler County peace officers will soon have a direct connection to the RCMP.
Through a new program being rolled out by the RCMP, the Stettler peace officers will be able to access the RCMP’s encrypted radio channels using their own Alberta First Responders Radio Communications Systems (AFRRCS) radios.
While the county will have to pay for the radio modifications, the necessary equipment for the change will be supplied to existing county vendors by the RCMP.
Total cost for the upgrade is unknown at this time, as it will depend on how many radios across the province the RCMP upgrades.
According to Clint Sime, the county manager of protective services, the total cost to the county should be around $1,000, plus enhanced security clearance checks for appropriate users, if needed.