Town of Blackfalds councillors have passed the 2016 operating and capital budget.
Councillors approved the balanced budget on Tuesday night that includes a 1% tax rate increase.
The total budget consists of an operating budget of $23,810,953 and a capital budget of $2,188,750. An average home accessed around $313,600 will see a $53 increase in property taxes for the year.
Mayor Melodie Stol said the budget is good news and holds no major surprises or challenges.
“It’s stable and continues the high level of service in the community,” she said.
Stol said council’s goal, as in previous years, is to keep the tax rate increase around or just below the cost of living, acknowledging that anything greater than that, could be difficult for families to meet.
“This year we came in at 1 per cent which is actually lower than the cost of living, but we’ve been able to do that mainly because we’ve had such tremendous growth in the community,” she said.
She also atributes the low increase to administration’s effort in giving a detailed look at the budget.
“I think we found a good balance between the tax rate and the services that we were able to provide to people,” she said.
Stol noted this year the capital budget is a bit smaller than past years, but it still packs a large punch with many needed projects on the list.
“For the first time in Blackfalds, an off leash dog park will be constructed,” she said. ” We are working with the Optimist Club to construct a new skateboard park and we have money set aside for that project. We will be restoring a historic home called the Wadey House and that is going to become a visitor information centre as well as act as an operational office space for the Chamber of Commerce and the Historical Society.”
Also included is the completion of the the amphitheatre stage in 2016, along with the construction of new ball diamond shelters, road upgrades, the purchase of equipment for winter trail maintenance and a new sign initiative in the community.
Other highlights include a boost to the school resource officer program of $20,000, to expand the contract past June, the creation of a new communications officer position and an increase of $1,400,000 in transfers to reserves.
One thing that Blackfalds taxpayers will notice that has increased are the sanitary consumption rates. For 2016, the rate has increased by $9.22 per month, from $4.61 per cubic metre to $13.82 per cubic metre.
“The utility rates are going up on the sewer end in order to accommodate the new regional sewer line which we are pursuing with the City of Lacombe and Lacombe County,” said Stol. “We need to start getting those monies ready so we can roll with the project as soon as, what we hope, the province steps forward with some capital support so we can make that project a reality.”
Deputy Mayor William Taylor said council and administration have worked hard on the budget.
“We worked very hard to come up with a budget that is both responsible and addresses all the concerns that we have,” he said. “When you are growing, you have a lot to deal with.”