Stettler county council approved its 2021 budget by a 6 to 1 vote, with one opposed councillor stating she wouldn’t vote in favour of a tax increase at this time.
The budget was passed at the May 12 regular meeting of council.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy presented councillors with the 2021 revised budget, which included the operating, capital and planning budgets up to 2024, stating in the agenda memo the county conducted a three-month public consultation, that departments spent several months on their future budgets, that the draft budget was given to departments for consideration, that council had their own budget workshop, that the proposed budget was available for public comment for several weeks and that the revised version was ready for council’s consideration.
Cassidy noted that the budget included a zero per cent tax rate increase to residential, non-residential and equipment/machinery property classes, and included a two per cent tax rate increase to agricultural land.
The CAO stated that in 2020 initial forecasts for the county’s budget were “dire,” with factors such as a large oil and gas industry bankruptcy causing the dark predictions, and it was predicted the county budget would face a $2 million shortfall due to unpaid oil and gas industry property taxes.
As it turned out, stated Cassidy, the shortfall was a bit smaller at $1.5 million.
Further belt-tightening by the county resulted in a $2.3 million surplus. Cassidy stated the $2.3 million surplus has been sent to reserves to assist budgets in the future.
Coun. Ernie Gendre asked if the provincial government’s proposed oil and gas industry property tax review had moved forward last year, what effect would that have had on the County of Stettler?
Cassidy answered that if the review, which the County of Stettler strongly opposed all through last summer including with an in-person protest at the Alberta Legislature, had moved forward it likely would have cost the municipality $3 to $4 million.
Coun. Cheri Neitz stated she didn’t agree with the two per cent agriculture tax rate increase because it’s not needed at this time.
Coun. Dave Grover responded he didn’t have a problem with the two per cent hike if the funds raised benefited the agriculture community.
The revised 2021 budget was approved by a 6 to 1 vote, with Neitz opposed.
A few minutes later councillors also approved all readings of the 2021 tax rate bylaw, although Neitz voted against first, second and third readings.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter