Red Deer County is holding the line on taxes, and even dropping a levy used to fund environmental initiatives.
The county previously passed a $51-million operating budget and a $24-million capital budget, and council took a look at the tax rates necessary to make ends meet on Tuesday. A $5.8-million surplus has already been projected for 2019.
As a result of the solid financial position, administration recommended no changes to the tax rates for residential, non-residential and farmland for 2019. Council gave the necessary bylaw first reading and it will come back for second and third reading on May 7.
Mayor Jim Wood said the county has consistently been able to hold the line on taxes despite the challenges posed by the province’s economic downturn and slow recovery.
“We are coming through (a period where the) oil industry has been facing a tough time,” he said.
That has had a direct impact on many Alberta rural municipalities, including Red Deer County, which has lost millions in linear taxes from pipelines and other infrastructure because of oil and gas industry bankruptcies and other financial challenges.
There are signs of improvement on the linear front, says a report to council.
The assessed value of commercial and industrial properties increased about 3.5 per cent, boosted by new growth and inflation.
“The growth we’ve seen in Gasoline Alley is definitely one thing,” said Wood, “but it’s not just Gasoline Alley. We’re seeing houses built all over the county.”
The county’s economy has held its own. The assessed value of residential properties increased just under one per cent, although it was offset by about a one per cent drop in the values of properties on average.
Counting all assessment, the value dropped about 0.5 per cent, “which, I think, is pretty good considering the economy,” assistant county manager Ric Henderson told council.
Another spot of good news for ratepayers is council’s decision to stop collecting an environmental services levy, a tax used to fund green initiatives.
The fund the money goes into sits at about $3.6 million. “There’s enough money in it,” said Henderson.
“It’s not often a tax is eliminated,” said Coun. Christine Moore. “I’m really, really happy to see this and I look forward to hearing from the public.”