Red Deer County plans to freeze property taxes for another year.
Council approved first reading of a bylaw on Tuesday that calls for no increase in residential, farm or non-residential taxes.
It is the fifth year in a row that council has held the line on farm and residential taxes. Non-residential taxes have increased once since 2016. In 2018, a slight increase to non-residential taxes and to a levy that helps pay for community services were approved.
Mayor Jim Wood said balancing the budget without tax increases “has been normal for us for some time.
“It hasn’t been normal for a lot of places.”
Wood said the county does not want to add to ratepayers’ financial burdens while maintaining services.
Keeping taxes low is key to attracting investment and promoting growth in the county, he added. “I think we’ve done a great job doing that over time.”
Council is also proposing to reduce the penalty for late payment of taxes to four per cent from six per cent to reflect the tough economic times.
Other council members were also pleased to see taxes hold steady.
“I like the fact it’s a zero per cent increase in the tough economic times we’re in,” said Coun. Connie Huelsman.
The county has managed to avoid tax increases despite a challenging economic and financial climate. Industrial assessments were down 10 per cent, leading to a total of $110 million in reduced assessments. That financial hit was partly offset by slight increases in residential and commercial assessments and the overall assessment decrease was 1.62 per cent.
In all, the county expects to collect $45.3 million in taxes, 2.5 per cent less than last year.
At the same time policing costs are going up. Beginning last year, the province has ordered rural and small municipalities to pick up a portion of policing costs. Last year, the county had to pay nearly $390,000 for policing. That increases to about $660,000 this year.
Council plans to give final approval to the tax rates at its April 27 meeting.