Despite the trying economic times, Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood is confident ratepayers will see little to no tax increase next year.
County council passed $51.2-million operating and $24.5-million capital budgets Tuesday.
“At this point in time, we’re not anticipating a tax increase,” said Wood. “I don’t think people are going to be surprised when (the final tax numbers) come out.
“Should there be any increase, it’s going to be very small.”
The county will set its tax rate increase next spring after all of the assessment numbers have come in.
Wood said the county is fortunate there has been continued development despite the economic downturn. It is especially noticeable in Gasoline Alley, where a number of construction projects are underway.
The county has not waited for businesses to come knocking. Work has already begun on what is expected to become an important truck stop and commercial area at highways 2 and 42, east of Penhold.
“We’re expecting to see continued growth within that region and these are the things that create jobs, as well as taxes to make our community strong,” said Wood.
“We’re kind of in an enviable position compared to a lot of rural municipalities that don’t have the commercial and industrial businesses that we have.
“And we’re seeing a lot of new people want to come and build a new home in our jurisdiction.”
Not all of the new development has been limited to Gasoline Alley.
In August, Paterson Grain opened its $25-million facility, which was started in May 2017. It’s Paterson Grain’s fourth inland export terminal in Alberta and has provided a big boost to the region, he said.
Wood said the county’s planning department has done its part to promote economic development by working with applicants and keeping approval delays to a minimum.
“We try to make sure we have as little red tape as possible.”
There’s no doubt oil and gas remains mired in a slump that is hurting everyone, including Red Deer County.
“We have seen a very, very limited amount of oil and gas exploration happen in Red Deer County over the last number of years,” he said.
“We’ve had to recognize that we’re seeing less revenue from the oil and gas industry, from the taxation that we would get on the new drills.
“For the last number of years, we’ve tried to keep taxation levels at a rate that people can afford through the tough times we’ve had.”
Wood remains optimistic the economy will continue to improve.
“I think we’re on the verge of seeing a change, of things getting better.”