No tax increase for Red Deer County residents

Despite a weakened economy, Red Deer County anticipates a budget surplus in 2010. County council approved its 2010 budget on Tuesday, including a $650,000 surplus to go into its municipal reserve with no increase in taxes.

Despite a weakened economy, Red Deer County anticipates a budget surplus in 2010.

County council approved its 2010 budget on Tuesday, including a $650,000 surplus to go into its municipal reserve with no increase in taxes.

“Good management” was the primary factor behind the county’s ability to develop its lowest budget in four years, Mayor Earl Kinsella said after the meeting.

County staff were vigilant in finding grant money to fund the projects it completed in 2009 and were also able to capitalize on lower costs of labour and materials, said Kinsella. That left the county in excellent shape for the coming year.

The 2010 budget is based on a total expenditure of just under $43 million, including $31.6 million in operating costs, $9.6 million in capital costs and $1.5 million earmarked for unique initiatives, said corporate services director Terryl Allen.

By comparison, operating expenses alone reached $32.9 million in 2009 and $37.59 million in 2008, said Allen.

Projects completed this year included opening a new fire hall and upgrades to more than 110 km of road. New chip seal coating was laid on 12.4 km of former gravel roads, chip seal was replaced on another 20.7 km of road and the county laid 77.2 km of pavement.

Those roads will now be able to carry heavier trucks in spring, when road bans would normally reduce heavy trucks to 75 per cent of their normal axle weight, said Kinsella.

There are some cautions for taxpayers, however, said county manager Curtis Herzberg. The 2010 budget includes assumptions about grant money that the county expects to see from the province in spring.

Those figures are not known and the county will not set its 2010 tax rates until the provincial government announces its budget, said Herzberg.

Education tax will also play a role in the bottom line for each ratepayer, he said.

Regardless of what happens at the provincial level, some people will see increases or decreases on their individual tax notices, reflecting changes in the values of their properties.

Kinsella does not anticipate the province will announce any major deviations from what has already been promised. The county is well equipped to deal with a slight reduction in municipal grants, he said.

bkossowan@www.reddeeradvocate.com

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