Red Deer County budget anticipates tough year ahead

Red Deer County budget anticipates tough year ahead

Budget built on projection that the tax base could shrink five per cent

A sluggish Alberta economy and provincial government financial tinkering could shrink Red Deer County’s tax base by five per cent.

It is “very rare” for a municipality to see total assessments drop in value, said county manager Curtis Herzberg, who cautioned the decrease is a projection, and hard numbers will not be available until February.

“It’s as tough a year as we’ve ever had to predict assessment.”

Property values are expected to drop slightly because of the lingering economic downturn.

On top of that, rural municipalities can also expect fewer taxes from the energy sector. The province intends to reduce the taxes the oil and gas industry pays to municipalities to help out the struggling sector.

The county’s 2020 operating budget is expected to be $54.4 million, up from $51.8 million this year. Capital spending will increase to $32.3 million from $28.7 million.

In anticipation that fewer tax dollars may roll in, the county has built its 2020 budget to absorb a five-per-cent assessment reduction scenario.

Whether the county will need to increase tax rates after years of holding the line will not be known until the spring, said Mayor Jim Wood on Tuesday, after council got its first look at its 2020 operating and capital budgets.

He emphasized that while county residents may see the assessed values of their properties drop, that does not mean they can assume a corresponding decrease in their tax bills.

“I don’t want to give the perception to the public we’re going to see a tax reduction,” he said. “That may not be feasible at all for Red Deer County.”

Wood said in light of the coming financial challenges, the county has created a “cautious budget” that maintains the services that residents expect and that help draw new residents, businesses and investors.

Council gave the budgets first reading and is expected to approve them at its Dec. 17 meeting.

“I’m looking forward to hearing from the public in the next two weeks, so we can make our decisions on this,” said Wood.

The budget anticipates pulling just over $12 million out of the county’s reserves in 2020 to balance the budget, while maintaining service levels.

Just under $2 million in reserve cash is being used to offset a reduction in provincial grants under the Municipal Sustainability Initiative, a long-running program that helps communities cover operating and capital costs.

Meanwhile, council voted to write off $2.4 million in unpaid oil and gas taxes to qualify for a provincial refund program. To help ease the financial pain for municipalities, the province has agreed to refund the school tax portion of energy industry debts.

The county will get $510,000 back under the program.



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Rotary Club of Red Deer logo.
Red Deer Rotary Club hosting tree planting event later this month

The Rotary Club of Red Deer will host a tree-planting event later… Continue reading

New admissions have been suspended for Engineering Technology diplomas (Instrumentation, Electrical and Mechanical) and the Transitional Vocational Program at Red Deer College. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Developmentally disabled impacted: Red Deer College suspends program

Transitional Vocational Program comes to an end

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is asking Albertans to do their part by observing gathering limits, staying home if unwell, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three new Central zone COVID-19 deaths, Alberta adds 1,433 cases

Red Deer down to 802 active cases of COVID-19

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman holds up freedom of information requests that turned up no records. The Opposition requested back-to-school re-entry plan correspondence between Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and school boards, teachers and the media. Photo via Facebook live
NDP renews calls for Alberta gov’t to scrap K-6 draft curriculum

The NDP is once again calling on the Alberta Government to get… Continue reading

Earlier this week Alberta Health Services warned that Rocky Mountain House Health Centre emergency department would be temporarily without physician coverage from May 12, at 6 p.m., to May 13, at 7 a.m. (Photo contributed by the Town of Rocky Mountain House)
Doctors needed in Rocky Mountain House

Emergency department temporarily closed due to doctor shortage

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Insert your name here

Back in the Paleolithic Era when a McDonald’s cheeseburger was 29 cents… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
Job search: Write a request that will get accepted

Last Thursday, when I logged into LinkedIn, I had nine connection requests… Continue reading

T-shirt with vaccine shot. (Contributed photo)
Letter: Hand out T-shirts with vaccine shots

I made myself a graphic T-shirt recently after getting my vaccine shot.… Continue reading

Winnipeg Jets' Kyle Connor (81) scores on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) as TJ Brodie (78) defends during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Friday, May 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Connor scores twice, Jets beat Leafs in regular-season finale

Connor scores twice, Jets beat Leafs in regular-season finale

Atletico Ottawa defender Vashon Neufville controls the ball during Atletico Ottawa’s first team practice of their inaugural season in the Canadian Premier League in Ottawa, Wednesday June 3, 2020. The Canadian Premier League plans to kick off its third season mid-June to early July in one location without fans. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Wattie
Canadian Premier League delays kickoff again, looks to mid-June to early July start

Canadian Premier League delays kickoff again, looks to mid-June to early July start

Calgary’s Stephen Ames shoots 66 to take Mitsubishi Electric lead

Calgary’s Stephen Ames shoots 66 to take Mitsubishi Electric lead

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) deflects a shot against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, May 8, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown, right, celebrates a goal with teammates during third period NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens, in Ottawa, Wednesday, March 5, 2021. Brown will lead a young Canadian squad into the world hockey championship in Riga, Latvia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

Most Read