The City of Lacombe presented an early draft of the 2020 Budget for council’s consideration that keeps municipal tax increases below the consumer price index (CPI) — which was one of council’s objectives upon being elected.
“We are really happy to present a budget that meets all of council’s policies and continues the service levels that residents have come to expect in the city of Lacombe,” Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Goudy said.
Currently, the CPI is at 1.9 per cent, with administration proposing a 1.4 per cent increase — although this budget presented does not include any requested increased funding from community groups who met with council last week.
Overall —including utility rates and the tax increases — Lacombe residents can expect to pay an additional $5.25 per household, per month.
Included changes in the operating budget are new Automated Traffic Enforcement cameras, support for the new Lacombe Performing Arts Centre, changes to the online permitting access and the discontinuation of the BOLT transportation system.
Included in the capital budget is $11.7 million worth of projects — including $5 million budgeted for a new city public works building. These projects will be funded by $3.64 million from grants, $2.35 million from reserve withdrawals, $5.51 million from debt and $170,000 from other sources.
The public works building is part of the City’s 10-year capital plan and is being developed due to advantageous costs in the real estate and construction industries.
“Right now there is an opportunity with real estate prices and commercial construction that the city could participate with local contractors to get great value and hopefully stimulate the local economy,” Goudy said.
Goudy said administration was able to meet council’s goal of CPI or less due to the reduction of the BOLT bus service and said the city is in a good position, especially considering potential municipal cuts from the Province of Alberta.
Goudy said indications the city from the province, and Premier Jason Kenney in particular are that cuts will not be as severe as 1993, when municipal budgets were slashed by 25 per cent. Regardless, Goudy said the city has budgeted for the worst.
“We have predicted a 25 reduction in our MSI (Municipal Sustainable Initiative) going forward within the current budget,” he said.
Goudy said the city continues to advocate through AUMA for a predictable funding model
“We get that times are tough and we fully expecting some belt-tightening, but to just have predictability would have value for us which would allow us to absorb the reduction,” he said.
The city is currently expected by the province to budget for at least five years, something Goudy said they would expect from the Province as well.
Going forward, Council will deliberate on the Budget on Oct. 28 and 29, and perhaps the evening of Oct. 30 if needed. Council already held Budget Consultation early this year and will not host a post-budget consultation due to them being poorly attended in the past.
“If there are changes, I’m sure council will want to consult with the public some more,” he said.