By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Independent
Town of Stettler residents will see a two per cent tax increase every year from 2019 – 21 after council passed its $17.7 million interim operating budget Jan. 22.
The two per cent increase means about $36 a year more for the average homeowner.
The 2019 operating budget is $17.7 million, in 2020 its forecast to be $18 million and in 20121 its projected to be $18.4 million.
A large portion of the 2019-21 interim operating budget, 37.84 per cent, goes towards wages. In 2013 the town paid out $4.5 million in salaries in benefits. That number increases to $5.78 million in 2019 and $6.1 million by 2021.
The proposed budget summary for 2019-21:
• Proposed Municipal Tax increase of 2 per cent ($112,730)
• Proposed Water Rate increase of $0.01m3 ($2.79 to $2.80) ($5,902)
• Proposed Sewer Rate increase of $0.25 ($22.25 to $22.50) ($6,340)
• Proposed Garbage Rate increase of $0.25 ($23.25 to $23.50) ($6,570)
• Proposed Recycling Rate increase of $0.25 ($6.25 to $6.50) ($6,480)
• Proposed Financial Impact on Average Residential Customer (municipal only) – 1.51 per cent
According to the town’s budget documents on their website, “the administration considers the property tax and utility rate increases included in the 2019 – 2021
Interim Operating Budget to be the minimum necessary given the present and future obligations required in our community. The three-year forecast reflects Administration and Council’s intent to be fiscally responsible and accountable to its residents.”
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released its Alberta Municipal Spending Watch Report December 2018 and excessive municipal spending cost households $9,471 in 2016 compared to $1,625 in 2006.
The report, which looked at 182 municipalities, shows that between 2006 and 2016 inflation adjusted municipal spending has increased a whopping 62 per cent. This rate is two and a half times faster than Alberta’s population growth of 24 per cent.
How Alberta municipalities with populations of 1,000 or more were ranked according to their spending sustainability patterns from 2006-16:
(Overall provincial ranking, 1=Best and 182=Worst)
Town of Stettler ranked 103 with a 10 per cent population growth rate and 60 per cent growth in real operating spending and 46 per cent growth in real operating spending per capita.
READ MORE: Many municipalities overspending says CFIB
As of December 2018, Stettler has collected just over $18 million in revenues for the budget year. Revenues are generated by the town using a combination of taxes, user and administration fees and bylaw enforcement, as well as government grants, investments and other sources of funding.
On the expense side of the ledger, the 2018 budget had the town spending $18.6 million in services, facilities, requisitions, and other operational needs. As of the conclusion of the Town of Stettler budget year on Dec. 31, the town had spent a total of $16.5 million, resulting in a nearly $1.5 million surplus.
A portion of the surplus can be attributed to the Capital Expenses budget. During every budget deliberation, a portion of the budget is marked for capital expenses, such as fire fighting equipment, technology upgrades, and even sidewalk repair. These Capital Expenses represented $6.5 million of the 2018, however, due to a number of factors some of these projects were shelved, pushed to the 2019 budget or in some cases were completed under budget resulting in Capital Expenses coming in just over $3.2 million under budget.
Council recently passed the 2019 interim budget which will see an estimated revenue of $18.7 million, and an estimated expense of $17.7 million. While taxes and some service fees will see an increase in 2019, town administration considers the increases “to be the minimum necessary given the present and future obligations required in our community,” as per the 2019 interim budget document.
The final 2019 budget will be completed later in the year.
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