Lacombe City council has passed the 2015 capital and operating budgets, which allow the City to maintain service delivery mostly at current levels with a few exceptions. Council has approved an increase in trail maintenance, an increase to the fall weed spraying program and funding for the City’s Heritage Resource Program.
“Consistent with council’s budget guidelines, the 2015 property tax rate has been budgeted with a 4.89 per cent increase,” said Mayor Steve Christie. “This budget is responsive to the needs and preferences of our citizens, which are established through public input and consultation, as well as collaboration with community organizations.”
The approved 2015 operating budget has revenues of $30,548,765 and expenses of $30,548,060. Additional property tax revenues resulting from assessment growth and supplementary assessment are equal to $363,710.
“Lacombe’s growth is impacting staff capacity and it is getting more difficult to sustain existing services,” said Chief Administrative Officer Norma MacQuarrie.
“We are working hard to find efficiencies, and administration has prepared a budget that maintains service levels and supports increased demand from residents in a sustainable manner.”
The operating budget also includes $1,141,648 in funding allocations to external organizations – an increase of $94,784 or 9.05% over 2014. Residents will see a property tax increase of 4.89% which will generate $555,720 for the City. Residential utilities will also increase by about 0.87%.
Water rate changes for 2015 include consumption rate increases from $2.26 per m3 to $2.27 per m3, and the monthly flat rate increases from $24.01 per month to $25.29 per month – an increase of 2.26%.
The wastewater rates remain unchanged from 2014, with the consumption rate at $0.80 per m3 (charged at 80% of water consumption). The monthly flat rate stays as $12.28 per month. There are some changes to the 2015 solid waste rates. Residential rates will decrease 1.7% from $27.09 per month last year to $26.63 per month to reflect actual new curbside recycling costs. Commercial rates will increase by 8.2% from $89.43 per month to $96.79 per month.
In order to keep up with the growth of Lacombe, council approved a small increase to staffing levels in the areas of a deputy fire chief, a utilities operator, a police administration support position, trail maintenance staff and a community services executive assistant.
The 2015 capital budget includes $20,974,122 worth of new capital projects that reflect a number of priorities including construction of the $8 million police station, intersection upgrades at 63 St. and Hwy. 12, a roundabout at College Ave. and C&E Trail, trail development and a paving and sidewalk replacement program.
Also within the capital budget is consideration for safety code upgrades at the arena and an affordable housing project.
For the first time ever in the City’s budget process, written suggestions were accepted from the public and evaluated by council for costing consideration and inclusion into the 2015 budget.
“Council appreciates the interest shown by the public in bringing forward their submissions for the 2015 budget,” said Mayor Christie. “We look forward to incorporating this citizen-centric process into future budget cycles.”
There were 16 submissions and in the end, council chose to adopt a walk-through entrance to Heritage Park at $1,200, some additional benches and trees at Cranna Lake, costing $3,500 and some more walking trail maintenance that will total a cost of $17,000.