Lacombe County prepares for uncertain future in 2020 budget

Police funding and industrial taxes among budget question marks

Lacombe County approved its 2020 operating and capital budgets, while acknowledging the difficult economic times.

“Lacombe County was faced with a tough budget year because of unique challenges facing our economy, including a significant loss in revenue from shallow gas well taxes,” said county manager Tim Timmons.

“We recognize the importance of planning for rainy days – or rainy years, as it seems.”

Council dipped into its reserves in a budget that maintains service levels while reflecting the “challenges and uncertainty” in the province.

The operating budget is $55.7 million and the capital budget was set at $33.5 million.

“There are many challenges faced by our municipality and municipalities around Alberta, and council felt this budget would balance the reality of the many uncertainties facing Lacombe County, without negatively impacting our ratepayers,” said Reeve Paula Law.

There are still some questions that need to be answered before the final budget is approved in April.

Municipalities are waiting to see what the province plans to do with industry tax rates. The Alberta government has said it plans to reduce the tax burden on the oil and gas industry by lowering the taxes they pay to municipalities, among other measures.

Lacombe County and other rural and small municipalities are also still waiting to hear how they will be affected by the province’s announcement on Wednesday of a new policing funding formula.

Communities will contribute 10 per cent of policing costs in 2020, followed by 15 per cent in 2021, 20 per cent in 2022 and 30 per cent in 2023, says the province.

Timmons said the county will not know exactly how much it will be expected to pay until the province has provided more information on how municipalities’ tax bases and population will be factored into the funding model.

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