Clearwater working on 2011 taxes

Operating costs are up slightly, but it will be a few more weeks before Clearwater County ratepayers learn how that will affect their tax rates, says its municipal manager.

Operating costs are up slightly, but it will be a few more weeks before Clearwater County ratepayers learn how that will affect their tax rates, says its municipal manager.

The county has completed its budget for 2011, including a 1.2 per cent increase in operating costs. Operating costs have been stable for the past few years with the current increase falling into line with the consumer price index, Ron Leaf said on Monday.

Clearwater County expects to spend $33.59 million on operations this year, compared with $33.45 million in 2009.

County officials are awaiting some numbers from the province before they can determine how that plan will affect ratepayers, said Leaf.

The county will not set its tax rates until it has received assessment figures from the province.

Those number are due at the end of February, so it will be April or March before the county can release details on how they will affect local ratepayers, he said.

The plan is to hold the line on taxes if possible, with a one to two per cent increase if necessary, he said.

A dramatic shift in the county’s capital budget will not have an impact on this year’s tax rates, said Leaf.

Capital spending anticipated in 2011 has fallen to $8.245 million from the 2009 budgeted amount of $27.445 million. Those expenditures reflect the completion and near completion of a number of major projects, including paving the Sunchild Road, which is to be finished in spring, said Leaf.

Money for those budgets had been set aside in previous years when capital spending was stalled because of the soaring costs that came along with a red-hot economy.

Projects that had been planned in 2007 and 2008 were set aside and the money held in reserve, said Leaf.

By 2010, the costs of those projects had also decreased, so the county was able to proceed with the money it had laid away, he said.

Costs of the Sunchild Road project were shared between the county, the province and the federal government under the federal government’s economic enhancement plan, announced in 2009.

Spending plans this year include a number of road projects, construction of a joint fire hall and public works shop at Nordegg and expansion of the county website to improve communication.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com