Rocky View County (RVC) residents may face a two per cent tax increase in 2020 as part of a base budget approved by council Dec. 10.
“Administration believes that the 2020 recommended budget achieves a reasonable balance between fiscal restraint and the desire to continue to maintain or improve the levels and quality of services to our residents,” said Barry Woods, manager of Financial Services.
The tax increase, he said, accounts for inflationary items and equates to approximately $1.5 million – it is subject to change during budget finalization. The budget includes $147.5 million for operations, and $58 million for capital projects.
“A 1.4 per cent assessment growth factor in the amount of $1,176,200 has been added to the draft operating base budget that will leave an excess amount of $58,300,” Woods said.
He added assessment had not yet been completed, and the growth factor may change.
"I think it's a good budget," said Reeve Greg Boehlke. "I think we're very fortunate to be in the position we're in – we know it's a down economy throughout the province, and we still managed 1.4 per cent live growth. That's a significant achievement in our County."
The tax increase, Boehlke said, was a necessity to respond to the cost of living, adding he and the rest of council felt it was better to have incremental tax increases yearly, rather than have to implement a significant increase in the future.
According to Woods, the budgeting process began in May. Two special council meetings were included in that process – a Nov. 4 meeting gave council an overview of the budget, while the second meeting on Nov. 18 offered a forum for the public to provide input on the budget.
“I want to thank [Woods] and [CAO Al] Hoggan and whoever was involved in doing the budget this year in open council,” Deputy Reeve Al Schule said. “I really appreciated the way it was done. I think all the questions we had before were answered.”
Coun. Samanntha Wright took issue with one line item in the budget – $9.6 million for servicing to West Balzac. With the details of the expansion still being finalized, Wright said she felt it was “imprudent” for the item to be left in, preferring to see it come forward later as a budget adjustment.
Wright moved to strike the item from the budget, but was unsuccessful – only Coun. Kim McKylor joined Wright in supporting the motion. Coun. Kevin Hanson was absent from the meeting.
“We did have this discussion before,” Schule said. “The understanding I got was, we’re moving ahead, so I’m not sure why some feel this is a surprise. When we had our budget deliberations…this subject was brought up.”
Council then approved the base budget 7-1, with Wright opposed. Council and administration will continue to review the operating and capital budget, which will be finalized in April or May of 2020 in conjunction with the 2020 tax rate bylaws.
Two other budget adjustments were also approved that will, according to Woods, help increase the delivery of recreation services. The first was for the development of a Recreation Master Plan, requiring $255,000 be transferred from the Tax Stabilization Reserve.
The second adjustment related to a proposed dog park in Langdon. According to administration’s report, the project will provide outdoor space “that allows for safe off-leash recreation opportunities for the over 800 licensed dogs in Langdon.” Funds remained from last year’s Langdon special tax levy, Woods said, and the budget adjustment was for $45,000
A new requirement under the Municipal Government Act mandates municipalities prepare operating and capital plans, and Woods presented a three-year operating plan and a five-year capital plan to council at the meeting.
In order to predict the funding of the operating plan, he said, administration used an average growth factor of 2.3 per cent, which equates to approximately $2 million per year.
“The growth-rate factor relates to new assessment growth within RVC and has been averaged over a four-year period,” Woods said. “The average growth-rate factor was then discounted by 25 per cent to better reflect today’s economy and apply a more conservative approach to reach the 2.3 per cent.”
The intent of the five-year capital plan, he said, was to capture the scale of the capital program, including ongoing maintenance and new projects. Approximately $107 million in capital projects were identified.
“As we move forward, this information will continue to be refined and will give council a clearer picture of the capital demands of the County,” Woods said.