By PAUL COWLEY
Town of Sylvan Lake is planning some serious belt-tightening but residents and businesses will be spared tax hikes.
Council’s proposed 2017 budget calls for a minimal 0.2 per cent tax increase that means most will see virtually no change to their tax bills next year.
The proposed municipal tax increase is a sharp reduction in the 2.96 per cent residential and 1.89 non-residential tax increases that had been proposed in the last version of the town’s three-year budget.
Town spokeswoman Joanne Gaudet said council made it clear it wanted to reduce the financial impact on residents during tough economic times.
“That came up as the driving force.”
Fallout out from the province’s economic downturn has meant tweaking the $37.4 million operating and $11.7 million capital budgets.
Population growth had been projected at 4.5 per cent over three years. That has now been revised downward to 1.5 per cent.
The town is also predicting a significant drop in assessment growth. Annual growth in assessment was downgraded to $40 million from $60 million for next year and in 2018.
The town is predicted some additional expenses next year with the addition of more park space and the opening of the NexSource Recreation Centre.
To offset those new costs, town departments have been ordered to cut expenses by five per cent and travel and training will be reduced by 10 per cent.
Some projects, such as a proposed fire training facility have been deferred, and a $125,000 community grant cut in half.
Staff wage increases, initially pencilled in at three per cent in 2017 and 2018 will be reduced to one per cent in each of those two years, rising to two per cent in 2019.
The town is also saving money by cutting back on new initiatives — $1.6 million over the next three years. The capital budget has been cut by $3.7 million next year.
“Looking at the budget for next year, it was tough, but we really considered what was a need versus what was a want, in order to keep costs down,” says Mayor Sean McIntyre in a statement.
“We haven’t postponed or reduced anything considered a need …,” said McIntyre, who was at a conference and unavailable for further comment.
The public can get a look at the budget at a meeting with council and town staff on Nov. 29 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 104- 25 Beju Industrial Drive or go to www.sylvanlake.ca