Lacombe County approves 2020 Final Budgets Tax Rates – Bashaw Star

At its May 14 meeting, Lacombe County council approved its 2020 operating and capital budgets and tax rate bylaw.

With immense uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the crash in world oil prices, council voted in favour of a zero per cent increase in municipal tax rates for all property classes.

“These are unprecedented times that we are living in, and council did not want to increase taxes when many of our ratepayers are unsure about the future,” said Reeve Paula Law.

“Maintaining the services our ratepayers expect is crucial, and Lacombe County continues to be focused on both reduced spending and smarter spending. We are fortunate to have reserves in place, to help offset any increases that may have been needed for the 2020 budget year to ensure that no changes in service levels are felt.”

Council also approved an extension of the deadline for paying property taxes to Sept. 30 in order to align with the education requisition deadline for non-residential properties.

Policing levy

New for 2020 is the province’s decision to charge all municipalities for policing costs. This has a direct impact on rural municipalities and any urban municipality with fewer than 5,000 people. Effective April 1, municipalities became responsible for 10 per cent of this projected cost. The amount will rise by 10 annually, topping out at 30 per cent in 2023.

For 2020, the levy will be $299,201 and will show up separately on the tax notices.

Rates Changes

The tax rates for the county and the requisitions for the Lacombe Foundation and education have changed as well.

For 2020, education taxes represent 49 per cent of the residential tax bill and 39 per cent for non-residential property.

Based on the new rates, 2020 property taxes on a $400,000 residence be $2,096.04 — an increase of $57.44. Residential property owners who experienced a decrease in the market value of more than 2.74 per cent will see a reduction in their taxes.

Budget

The 2020 operating budget of $68,306,860 includes $12,727,170 in requisitions. In addition to including the final requisition estimates, several minor changes were made to the final operating budget.

Some highlights include — reduced revenues to reflect the reduction of the Agriculture Services Board grant ($46,040); additional funding from tax rate stabilization reserve to fund budget shortfall ($328,890); reduction in wages from deferred filling of vacant positions ($505,350); additional grant to other organizations of $56,000; and, reduction in culvert expenses due to lower than expected tender price ($30,370).

Council also approved the capital budget of $33,546,220 with highlights being: increase in road projects of $6.652 million; increase of $861,020 for bridge projects; equipment and vehicle replacements increase by $242,300; West QEII utility servicing increased by $5.69 million; accounting and records management software purchases 2019 project carry-over; boiler replacement for administration building ($35,000).

Maximizing Value

Council directed that municipal tax rate increases be as low as possible, while still providing sustainable funding for operating and capital expenses and ensuring that infrastructure, assets and services are maintained at appropriate levels.

“The 2020 operating budget, capital budget, and municipal tax rates have been established in a manner which provides for the continued delivery of a high level of important services and programs for our citizens in the most cost-effective manner possible,” said county manager Tim Timmons.

“The COVID-19 public health crisis will have significant repercussions down the road, which we will address in future budgets and when we have a better idea of what the local, provincial and national impacts are.”

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