Most Red Deer County ratepayers can expect little or no property tax increases on next year’s bills.
County Mayor Earl Kinsella said while the final number crunching can’t take place until assessments are tallied and the province makes it requisition for school taxes, the $31.6-million operating budget is in good shape.
“As far as actual tax dollars we don’t expect to see, from a county point of view, any significant increase overall,” said Kinsella.
“I would say maybe the greatest accomplishment of this council and our administration was to keep costs in line and to (meet) at least a majority of the wants, at least the reasonable wants, and the needs of the community.”
Kinsella said the county’s strategy has been to put money aside in reserves when building costs were high. This year, a lot of that money was tapped when prices dropped. At the same time, the county took advantage of various federal and provincial funding programs.
“We’ve done an awful lot of good work on capital (projects), especially on roads and so on.
This spring, the municipality rolled out a massive $8-million road paving program and accelerated a 10-year asphalt maintenance program by eight years. Contractors put asphalt overlay on 70 km of roads.
The county’s strategy is reflected in its capital budget, which soared to $38.4 million this year, but will drop to the more usual range of $9.6 million in 2010. Projects include $3.2 million worth of road work, $1.6 million for bridges and $2 million for a reservoir in Benalto.
Councillor Reimar Poth said 2009 showed the importance of putting money aside in reserves.
“We took advantage of some big savings, construction savings. The only way we were able to do that was to have that savings account.”
Councillor David Hoar said the county may be cutting back on its capital projects but is still committed to fixing up infrastructure.
“We’re still making massive advances on what we might call an infrastructure deficit within the county.”
Councillor Jim Wood called it a “very responsible budget. To be able to say we’re not going to have tax increases is very, very important.”
The county plans to roll out a number of new initiatives next year:
• $150,0000 contribution towards a de-icing facility at Red Deer Regional Airport
• $111,0000 will be spent on a $300-per-kilometre fund to support drainage projects on•126 km of county ditches
• $100,000 to reclaim the former Kevisville waste transfer site
• $100,000 contribution to help build the Penhold Multiplex
• $100,000 to do a Pine Lake Area Structure Plan
• $74,000 for various weed programs, including a project to hit roadside and fence line areas
• $65,000 to post yield or stop signs on 115 unmarked intersections.