Red Deer County freezes taxes

Strong Gasoline Alley growth contributing to county’s good financial health

Red Deer County council is sticking to its plan to freeze tax rates despite a drop in overall assessment values.

Alberta’s economic troubles left its mark on county finances. The assessed value of underground pipelines and above-ground infrastructure such as power lines is down 13.1 per cent. Machinery and equipment taxes are down slightly — 0.6 per cent.

Total assessment for residential properties, which was up 1.3 per cent, and commercial and industrial assessment, which was up 0.7 per cent helped offset lost linear tax revenue.

The county’s budget for 2017 is $74 million, about $43 million of which comes from taxation. That money funds road maintenance, infrastructure, water and waste management, agriculture and environmental services, community services and fire, patrol and emergency management.

Mayor Jim Wood said the county’s increasingly diverse economy has contributed significantly to its economic health and resiliency.

The decline in linear assessment was not unexpected given the pummelling the province’s oil and gas industry has taken in the last two years.

“We haven’t seen a lot of new wells being drilled and a lot of pipelines being built,” said Wood on Tuesday after council gave the municipal tax rate bylaw first reading.

Fortunately, other areas of the county’s tax base are doing much better.

“Especially in Gasoline Alley, we’re seeing huge growth there, which is helping keep our assessment up.”

The county estimates Gasoline Alley will bring in about $4.1 million in tax revenues, a substantial contribution considering all of the county’s farmland produces about $1.4 million in tax revenue.

Wood said the county’s goal to freeze taxes for a second year was partly motivated by the poor economy and an effort to relieve some of the financial burden on ratepayers.

“I believe the tax rate is definitely helping our growth to continue to happen,” he said.

“We’re doing our best all the time to find the best efficiencies we can. We’re in very strong financial shape in Red Deer County.”

Council will give second and third reading to the tax bylaw at the May 9 meeting. Residents have until May 8 to comment on the bylaw.

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