Over the past year Leduc County has managed to accomplish multiple feats involving financial decisions for 2017 and regional collaboration.
“We’ve managed to pull in a zero per cent municipal budget for next year,” said mayor John Whaley.
Leduc County council approved its $38.5 million interim budget Dec. 7, with no tax increase for the 2017 year.
Whaley says the county understands the strain rural residents are under; a situation born of multiple factors, including the recessive economy.
“With the state of the economy and the hardships that many are facing in the region, it’s imperative that we offer what support we can; keeping our tax rates consistent will help provide that support,” said Whaley in a Dec. 7 media release.
“One of our other achievements is notable improvements in the fire district, especially in the Town of Calmar,” said Whaley, referring to the recent borderless agreement.
In 2017 a new building is slated for construction for the Calmar Fire Department.
Whaley also listed the tentative agreement between Leduc County and the City of Edmonton as an accomplishment of 2016.
The joint announcement between Whaley and City of Edmonton mayor Don Iveson was made Nov. 30.
As part of the new agreement: the City of Edmonton amends its west annexation notice by withdrawing the lands west of the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) and south of Highway 19, reducing the proposed west annexation area by 2,584 hectares (6,379 acres) to approximately 9,469 hectares (23,398 acres), Leduc County will retain the north Nisku industrial area and the reservoir (previously part of the east annexation notice), reducing the east annexation area from 3,945 hectares (9,748 acres) to approximately 2,632 hectares (6,504 acres); unless mutually agreed, the City of Edmonton’s boundary will not shift again into Leduc County until joint planning for that area has been completed. The inclusion of EIA lands in the annexation will be determined over the next several months through a collaborative exercise between Leduc County, the City of Edmonton and the EIA.
Leduc County was not without its share of challenges in 2016.
“The economic downturn has been one of the biggest challenges, especially in oil and gas,” said Whaley.
Farming was hit too. Producers were hit in the fall of 2016 as crops were brought in late due to the wet autumn. Whaley says 20 per cent of crops remain in the fields under the snow.
On the radar for 2017, annexation discussions will continue.
Whaley says the county does not know what the provincial government will decide in way of its budget and grants. He added this makes Leduc County tentative of its own budget. “And also we don’t know what the school requisition will be.”
Changes are also coming to the Capital Region Board (CRB), In early December it was announced the CRB was reducing its size from 24 municipalities to to 13, leaving just the larger municipalities as “players,” said Whaley.
“Technically that doesn’t take effect until after the election,” he added.
Leduc County also gained a new town in 2016, as Thorsby gained town status. “They get to a certain population and they can choose whether to be or not,” said Whaley.