After a presentation from staff describing the 2020 operating and capital budget process as “very challenging,” Kneehill County council approved both budgets, including a tax increase, at their regular meeting on March 24.
It should be noted council encouraged the public to watch the meeting via YouTube rather than attend in person, due to coronavirus measures.
Director of corporate services Bill McKinnon discussed several factors affecting Kneehill County’s 2020 budget process, including the coronavirus pandemic.
Also, he mentioned the provincial government’s recent changes to policing, shallow gas and other issues.
“In 2020 a portion of the costs related to RCMP policing will be downloaded to our municipality which was previously funded by the province,” stated McKinnon in his memo to council. “This will require an additional funding allocation of $160,000 in the 2020 budget and will increase to $480,000 in 2023.
“The province has also notified Council that the 35 per cent property tax reduction relief to shallow gas producers approved by provincial legislation will not be funded by the province in 2020.
This will represent a loss of approximately $1,900,000 or seven per cent of the total County’s revenue in the 2020 budget.
“In addition, the county will see a 25 per cent reduction in provincial capital funding in the 2020-2022 period representing a further revenue loss of approximately $600,000.”
He also noted that the school education requisition, which goes to the provincial government but is collected by municipalities, is also increasing.
McKinnon added, “There has been a significant downloading of provincial costs.”
McKinnon pointed out, however, that Kneehill County has a long history of strong fiscal responsibility.
He stated that budget deliberations through Committee of the Whole decided that a modest tax increase would address the provincial downloading.
“Although the individual impacts on homeowners will be dependent of assessment changes the typical hamlet home would see an increase of $10 annually, acreages would see an annual increase of approximately $25 annually and farmland increases would be approximately $20 annually,” stated McKinnon’s memo to council.
McKinnon’s memo to council noted included in the operating budget were increasing the farmland tax rate by 10 per cent which it was stated would have a typical impact of $20, increasing the residential tax rate by three per cent, with a typical impact $10 to $25 and increasing the Non-Residential tax rate by three per cent, with a variety of impacts.
The 2020 operating budget memo stated total revenues for Kneehill County would be $31,799,000 and total expenditures equalled $31,799,000.
It was stated in McKinnon’s memo councillors also decided to draw on reserves for the 2020 budget.
“The total reserve draws proposed in the 2020 Operating Budget is $4,225,792,” he stated.
A number of projects were listed in the capital budget, which was identified at $18,600,887.
A few projects listed in McKinnon’s memo included bridge replacements and rehabilitations ($2,200,000), fire communications systems ($250,000), securing long-term gravel supply ($5,250,000), fleet replacements to support road maintenance, winter control and maintenance ($1,323,424), equipment renewal gravel operations ($579,000), equipment renewals parks and agricultural programs ($508,000), day-use washroom and retail facility at Horseshoe Canyon ($1,350,000), tree assessment, rehabilitation and plantings (Torrington, Swalwell, Huxley, $50,000), bulk water system enhancements ($30,000) and ongoing facility needs (FCSS, Shop, $44,000).
Councillors appeared quiet and thoughtful as they looked at the budget. They then unanimously approved the motions necessary to bring it into effect.
Stu Salkeld, LJI reporter