Red Deer County is officially debt-free.
Heather Surkan, director of corporate services, delivered the good news to county council during a budget update on Tuesday.
The update covering 70 per cent of the budget year is mostly positive, with many departments and projects expected to come in under budget at year end. Red Deer County’s operating budget is about $52 million.
There are signs in the budget of the difficult economic times.
About $4.8 million in taxes — which were due at the end of June — remain outstanding. That’s up $2 million from the same time last year.
Almost half of the uncollected taxes are related to pipelines, a reflection of the oil and gas industry downturn. The remaining uncollected taxes are from a mixture or residential and commercial ratepayers. The county expects to collect about $44 million in taxes this year.
“I believe we had fairly high number of (unpaid or late) linear last year as well, said Mayor Jim Wood. “I think it’s somewhat of a barometer, but I think those taxes will definitely be collectible.
“We’re seeing higher penalties this year. People are paying a little bit later,” he said.
“It’s definitely a sign of our Alberta economy, although I do believe our economy is on the rebound right now.”
One of the few positives from the recession is that paving and construction prices have been competitive giving municipalities more bang for their tax bucks.
“I remember years ago at this time of year there were all these projects that weren’t going to be finished,” he said.
“We’re seeing the work being done and the work is being done at a level below budget so I think our process is working really well.”
Wood said the county’s game plan has been to build up financial reserves and hold back on projects when pricing is peaking.
“Then, when we get a time like right now where we can take advantage of 50 cents on the dollar construction costs we do a lot of construction.”
The county also contracts out most of its work to take advantage of competitive bidding.