The Town of Stettler adopted the 2020 Interim Operational Budget during the Dec. 17th regular meeting, which estimates expenditures at $17,927,471 and revenues at $18,952,898.
“Our projection right now is a one per cent tax increase,” said Greg Switenky, CAO with the Town of Stettler. “Although we are forecasting one per cent, taxes won’t be dealt with until the real operating budget comes in the spring.”
The interim operating budget also pegged the combined amount available for capital expenditure purposes to be $1,025,427 (general – $635,497 and utility – $389,930) for the year 2020.
According to council notes, Town council and administration consider the property tax and utility rate increase estimates included in the 2020 – 2022 Interim Operating Budget necessary given the present and future obligations required in the community.
“The three-year forecast (also) reflects council’s intent to be fiscally responsible and accountable to its residents.”
According to council notes, the 2020 – 2022 Interim Operating Budget enables council to sustain the current high level of public services, facilities and utilities for all Stettler residents and visitors, as well as continue to renew aging capital infrastructure and equipment on an affordability basis
“Right now, the one percent (hike) is a forecast,” said Switenky, pointing out that this is the forecasted hike for the years 2021 and 2022 as well.
“But the things that do come into play January 1st are utility rates – water, sewer, garbage and recycling. Water is going up two cents, garbage is going up 25 cents per month, sewer is going up 25 cents per month, and recycling is staying at the same price.”
Switenky said adjustments are based on a ‘sample house’ of average worth in the community.
“It’s an actual house in Parkdale,” he said. “Basically, what we do is we look at what that house paid last year for taxes, water, sewer, garbage and recycling.
“And based on what council is forecasting in this interim budget, what would they pay next year in 2020? We come up with a dollar figure which is $28.46 – that’s what our forecasted (hike) is.
“It represents a 0.9 of one per cent increase over what they paid last year,” he explained, adding that council also agreed to fund STARS Air Ambulance to the tune of about $11,904 (two dollars per capita). “We agreed to incorporate that into the budget,” he said.
“What you have to remember about an interim budget is that there is a reason why we call it ‘interim’,” he added. “We need expenditure authority to keep paying the bills.
“So prior to January 1st, we have to pass an interim operating budget. In fact, we have to pass a three-year interim operating budget. But we all know that the most important year in a three-year interim operating budget is the first year,” he said. “So we have the expenditure authority in place now by approving this, and then will actually pass the real operating budget, which we call the ‘tax’ budget (in the spring).”
Mayor Sean Nolls described administration’s and council’s approach to the interim budget as responsible.
“We are five years into an economic downturn,” he noted, adding that many residents continue to be significantly impacted. “It’s important to look at these budgets responsibly and to think about where we should be,” he said, referring to the proposed tax rate at this point.
“The primary thing is that our administration has created a budget that is really ‘digestible’ to anybody. It’s responsible – we know what the times are like,” he said.
Switenky also said that establishing costs like recreation rates for example are done at a different time of the year.
Rates couldn’t be changed, for example, on local hockey teams on Jan. 1st right in the midst of a season.
“The next rate change will be in September,” he explained. “A lot of that is not thought through in the budget process at this time because it’s better dealt with at another location (in the year),” he added.