Based on the priorities set out in the Lacombe County’s 2016-2018 Strategic Plan and a commitment to maintaining high service levels for its citizens and industry partners, County council has approved its 2016 interim operating and capital budgets.
The balanced operating budget of $46,061,000 represents a decrease of $1.9 million (3.97%) from 2015.
Due primarily to a significant loss of non-residential property assessment and lower investment income, the operating budget projects municipal tax rate increases of 3.5% for farmland and residential properties and 6.4% for non-residential properties. Total additional tax revenue realized through the tax rate changes will be $1.01 million, an increase of 3.8% from 2015. The tax rate increase for all properties was 1% in 2014 and 2% in 2015.
“The 2016 budget and projected tax rates reflect the cost of maintaining core services, long term plans protect and enhance infrastructure and a sustainable multi-year budget plan,” said Lacombe County Commissioner Terry Hager. “While the budget provides for a projected increase in both residential and non-residential tax rates, Lacombe County residents will continue to experience some of the lowest tax rates in Alberta.”
A survey presented to council at their Dec. 15th budget meeting indicates that even with the 2016 increases, Lacombe County’s residential and non-residential tax rates are 24% and 45% lower, respectively, than the average of 16 other counties throughout Alberta.
Council also approved the 2016 interim capital budget, which provides for revenues and expenditures of $12,982,250. Highlights of the capital budget include the construction of the Trans Canada Trail between the City of Lacombe and Ponoka County (15.5 km) for $905.370; Broadband Internet tower project in the southeast area of the County at a cost of $750,000; the purchase of a rapid response unit for the Bentley Fire Department for $250,000; reconstruction of 18.4 km of local roads for $4.6 million; purchase of public works equipment and vehicles for a cost of $812,000; bridge repairs and replacement for $2.72 million and completion of the remote shops in the east and west ends of the County for a cost of $1.5 million.
Each year council works through the complex task of managing resources in order to maintain a balance between present needs and future growth.
“While tax increases are never favourable, maintaining service levels and providing for the County’s future sustainability was in the forefront of all decision made by both council and staff through the entire budget process,” said Lacombe County Reeve Paula Law.
While the interim operating and capital budgets are approved in December of each year, the final budgets and tax rates are not set until the following spring, when the property tax levy for education purposes is set by the province and property assessment values have been confirmed.