No tax increase for County of Stettler

Written by Submitted

An amended motion to approve the 2013 mill rates for assessed properties within the County of Stettler was passed at council’s meeting on May 8, 2013.
Departmental cuts, changes to existing programs and cutting or postponing other projects allowed council to approve an operating and capital budget that did not require any tax increases.
The County of Stettler’s total budget is $29.5 million.  Municipal revenues and transfers from all sources other than taxation are estimated at $10.5 million and the balance of $19.0 million is raised through general municipal taxation.
An amendment was passed to increase the farmland rate by a half mill.  In proposing the amendment, Councillor Joe Gendre argued that “in real terms (adjusted for purchasing power), he is today paying half the taxes he paid 20 years ago on his quarter section.”
The money raised, approximately $40,000 to $50,000 or about $15 per quarter section, would be put in reserve for road maintenance.
“Most farmers don’t mind paying taxes if it goes to better maintain their roads”, said Gendre.  Five councillors voted for and two councillors, Blake Chapman and Lorne Chapman, voted against the amendment.

Waste Management
“The waste management budget is in a deficit position and its costs will only continue to rise,” said Councillor James Nibourg. The County will soon need to invest in new equipment and develop a new cell.  Regulations now require that cells have a clay liner plus a synthetic liner and collection system, increasing the cost of one cell to about $1.2 million.
“I have not changed my position”, said Nibourg, “tipping fees make sense”.  County residents would get “x” number of free bags per week before they pay. Sorted metals, trees and recyclable items would continue to be free and all non-County residents would pay. The Counties of Red Deer and Lacombe have introduced a user pay system.
County recycling bins are in Stettler (two bins), Erskine (two bins) and Botha and are well utilized. The waste management budget in 2013 adds a recycling bin in Byemoor, Gadsby, Big Valley, Endiang and Donalda. A request was also made to consider one in Red Willow.  Councillor Nibourg sees a need for regional cooperation amongst local municipalities when it comes to sharing the costs of recycling.

Snow Plowing
By passing an amendment to Snow Plowing Procedures, the County is serving notice that farm access roads (back roads that don’t have gravel) will be plowed at a rate of $100 per hour and only after all paved roads, graveled roads and lanes are cleared and at the grader operator’s convenience.  No requests to open farm access roads will be considered after November 30. In the past, plowing these roads with large drifts and deep snow coverage has been hard on equipment and time consuming.
Stettler Airport
The Flying Club has walked away from managing the Stettler Airport. The Town of Stettler has asked the County to consider sharing operations.  The annual operating costs are $24,000 per year.  In the past, the County has plowed the runway and taxiway every other year and has foregone about $4,500 in taxes annually. The Town has proposed they take over year-around maintenance and the County does all the snow plowing.  “It usually takes a couple of hours with three machines to clear the taxiway and runway,” said Dennis Nelson, Director of Public Works.
The County can only assess taxes on improvements, for examole: hangars and there is really no way to recover taxes that are in default since the airport is on town land.

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