County of Wetaskiwin councilors hear good budget news Jan. 8

Prov. Govt. assessment numbers much lower than feared

County of Wetaskiwin council heard some good news during a 2020 budget meeting Jan. 8 at the regular meeting of council.

Councilors were listening to a report from CAO Rod Hawken, Director of Assessment Services Rene Boutin and Director of Finance Eric Hofbauer regarding work on the 2020 budget. Of course, the upcoming budget will determine what, if any, tax increase county ratepayers will bear.

Hawken began the presentation by stating staff had good news. He said preliminary discussions at a previous meeting projected that if councilors aimed at a zero per cent tax increase, the county would face a roughly $660,000 deficit, which would have to be addressed by a tax increase, cost cut or by dipping into reserves.

“At the meeting of December 10, 2019, Council approved the 2020 Interim Budget of $20,266,711 based on a status quo level of service,” stated the agenda memo.

“Projected assessment values required Council to consider budget reductions/tax increases between $600,000 and $2,000,000 dependent on final assessment year modifiers.

“Administration has now received the AYM which did not reduce values nearly as anticipated. In a meeting with Minister Madu, Municipal Affairs, Council was advised the process to review assessment valuations was not yet completed.

“Further, in a news release dated December 19, 2019, the Minister indicated changes are expected to come into effect in 2021,” noted the memo.

Boutin pointed out, considering the new information, an average tax increase of 2 per cent across the board would cover the 2020 budget, plus leave about $25,000 in surplus.

Staff pointed out, though, that provincial government changes to police costs are on top of this.

Councilor Lyle Seely asked if small commercial property owners could get a break. He asked if the small commercial zones could see a zero per cent increase. Boutin said he would calculate that and bring such a proposal to a future council meeting.

The 2020 budget will be discussed again soon at a future meeting.

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