Lacombe County Council adopted the 2021 Operating and Capital budgets unanimously in council at the end of November.
With the difficult financial year both budgets reflect the current economic situation in the province. It follows the priorities set out in the county’s Strategic Plan, Long-range Road Construction Plan and Capital Equipment Plan.
“Over the last few years, Lacombe County has faced many unique challenges facing our economy, including a significant loss in revenue from oil and gas well taxes and now the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tim Timmons, County Manager.
The Operating Budget serves to help support the maintenance of existing service levels and the Capital Budget works to also manage the county’ spending.
Interim budgets are approved annually near the end of every year as part of the first stage of planning for spending on projects in the next year. The last stage happens in the spring when the final budget is approved that outlines the final budgets and tax rates. In order for the last stage to happen the province needs to set the property tax levy and confirm the property assessment values.
The proposed 2021 operating budget is balanced and will maintain the existing service levels. The $55.307 million budget has yet to be finalized because the county is waiting on the province to confirm regulated industrial assessments and rural policing costs.
The budget includes an allowance for the proposed assessment reductions for oil and gas assessments of $180,000 as well as the elimination of the Well Drilling Tax.
In order to offset some revenue changes upcoming vacancies with Lacombe County will not be filled and are planned on staying vacant until the end of next year. The county has said these vacancies will not impact ratepayers in a negative way. In addition, the 2021 Operating Budget does not contain a municipal tax increase.
The 2021 Capital Budget is $18.636 million, which is a decrease of $14.91 million or 44.45 per cent compared to 2020.
The Capital Budget included a decrease of $4.3 million in road projects, an increase in bridge projects including both replacements and engineering and a decrease of $2,514.570 in vehicle and equipment replacements.
Lacombe County Reeve Paula Law noted that the $6 million of the budgeted $18.636 million is sourced from funds that have been set aside in previous years through capital replacement plans.
“By using our capital reserves, funds from equipment trade-ins and capital grants, we can ensure that we are moving forward with crucial projects that will keep Lacombe County moving in a positive direction,” said Law.
With another potentially uncertain year ahead county council made sure to balance current needs with future growth.
“There are many challenges facing our municipality and council feels this budget will balance the reality of the many uncertainties facing Lacombe County, without negatively impacting our ratepayers,” said Law.