A prudent and realistic budget for 2014

City council recently passed the 2014 capital and operating budgets, which allows the City to maintain service delivery at current levels

City council recently passed the 2014 capital and operating budgets, which allows the City to maintain service delivery at current levels, and includes resources for a number of new initiatives that are part of council’s strategic priorities for next year: a curb side recycling program, a regional public transit service and investment in the City’s fire and police services.

I am pleased to say that this budget is responsive to the needs and preferences of our citizens, which are established through public engagement and consultation and through collaboration with community organizations.

In keeping with council’s budget guidelines, the average tax rate increase on municipal taxes for a property in Lacombe will be 2.7% while there will be a 5.24% increase per month for the average residential utility account.

Utility customers will see the water consumption rate increases from $2.18 per m3 to $2.26 per m3, with the monthly flat rate increasing from $23.25 per month to $24.01 per month. The wastewater consumption rate (charged at 80% of water consumption used), will increase from $0.78 per m3 to $0.80 per m3, with the monthly flat rate is increasing from $11.43 per month to $12.28 per month.

For solid waste, residential rates will increase to reflect the new curb side recycling program, with the monthly rate increasing from $21.45 per month to $27.09. Commercial rates will increase from $80.89 per month to $89.43 per month.

The 2014 operating budget has expenditures of $29.49 million, with $18.1 million in offsetting revenues excluding property taxes and $11.4 million in municipal property taxes to achieve an operating surplus of $4,170.

This is a $2 million or 7.5% increase over the 2013 expenditures. Additional property tax revenues resulting from assessment growth amount to $167,624 and additional property tax revenues from the 2.7% tax increase generate $289,203.

Debt repayment amounts to a total of $2,078,622 ($466,068 interest and $1,612,554 principal). Next year’s contributions to capital from capital reserves total $2.8 million ($2.5 million in 2013).

The 2014 budget includes funding for projects that will support the City’s strategic priorities through commercial/industrial land development, safe communities, and infrastructure development. They include the Tangible Capital Assets Inventory and Amortization Software Implementation; Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan Implementation; Council Strategic Review, Recreation and Culture Master Plan implementation, Municipal Sustainability Plan (MSP) Review and Implementation, the Municipal Development Plan Review, the Land-Use Bylaw Review, the Echo Community Endowment Program Marketing, the Fleet Audit Action Plan, the Solid Waste Review Implementation Plan, the Completion of Wolf Creek Basin Study, the Len Thompson Industrial Park Phase II Site Servicing and Lot Sales and Cemetery Plan Implementation.

The 2014 capital budget includes 44 new capital projects totalling $15.9 million, with $7.59 million to be grant-funded. Not only will the 2014 Capital Works Program maintain and enhance our infrastructure and facilities, it will develop new infrastructure to encourage economic growth.

Projects include $1.69 million for Maple Dr. – College Ave. to end – sidewalk, base and pavement project, $4.55 million for 34 St. – Hwy. 2A to City Boundary – curb, base and pavement project, $810,000 for signals; lighting; 50th Ave. barrier, Henner’s Pond Outfall and NE Lift Station.

Other highlights include $1.83 million for vehicle and equipment replacement, $3.2 million for Len Thompson Phase II Site Development, $1 million for Land Acquisition Site, and $800,000 for Police Station Design & Engineering among others.

Lacombe’s growth is impacting staff capacity and it is getting more difficult to sustain existing services. However, we are working hard to find efficiencies, and City administration has prepared a budget that maintains service levels while supporting increased demand from residents in a sustainable manner.

Steve Christie is the mayor of Lacombe.