Lacombe tax hike at 3 per cent

City of Lacombe council boosted taxes three per cent in its 2012 budget, amounting to a $50 increase for the typical homeowner.

City of Lacombe council boosted taxes three per cent in its 2012 budget, amounting to a $50 increase for the typical homeowner.

The $25.5 million budget passed on Monday night was designed to keep pace with inflation, which is expected to hover around 2.5 per cent this year, said Mayor Steve Christie.

A 2.5 per cent wage increase was built in for the city’s 95 full-time staff. Departmental budgets were also expected to meet similar targets. Christie is pleased with the budget, considering rising costs facing the city at a time when growth has been slowing.

Despite the financial challenges, the city has managed to avoid any cuts to service for local residents, he said at a budget news conference on Tuesday.

Based on a typical home assessed at $254,000, residents will see the municipal portion of the tax bills rise to about $1,738 from $1,688 this year.

Homeowners’ bills will vary depending on how much their assessments have increased. However, since assessments have remained relatively flat over the last year, most homeowners can expect their tax bills to be in the same ballpark as the budget increase.

The budget also includes a revamped utility rate structure that will boost bills for the average household by 4.5 per cent, or $4.82 for water, sewer and garbage. The new billing system is designed to better reflect actual costs and homeowner consumption.

“We’re certainly being more diligent in terms of what costs are covered by what rates. We’re certainly being a little more consistent in that way,” said Michael Minchin, corporate services director.

Council has also decided to get out of the coffee shop business. The city had been running the Lacombe Memorial Centre Coffee Bar, but has decided to seek a private operator. Running the coffee shop had been costing the city about $30,000 a year.

The city will pull nearly $4.3 million out of reserves to undertake servicing for the Legacy Point project, which will see about 78 homes on 15 acres as part of partnership with Canadian University College.

Council also passed a $25.9 million capital budget, which includes $12.8 million worth of Hwy 2A improvements. The bulk of the capital budget — $18.5 million — is funded through provincial grants.

The city is also undertaking a multi-million project to upgrade its storm water system to address severe flooding problems that happened last spring after a series of heavy rainfalls.

Stantec Consulting was hired to review the system and find ways of adding additional capacity, said city chief administrative officer Norma MacQuarrie. A storm water line from Bruns Pond in the middle of Lacombe will be doubled in size to channel rainwater out of the community into Wolf Creek on the other side of Hwy 2A as part of a $2.49 million project.

“Certainly that’s going to create substantial additional capacity with that line,” MacQuarrie said, adding the capacity of the pond will also be boosted at a cost of $548,000. A wastewater line will also be twinned at a cost of $617,000.

The improvements are expected to improve drainage immediately once complete, but further work is also anticipated.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2012 and be complete in 2013.

MacQuarrie said the city doesn’t want to start construction in the spring and risk facing heavy rainfalls while pipes are being replaced.

Christie said the projects will address the “present, emergent needs” and the city is also committed to ensuring ongoing upgrades and maintenance are undertaken as needed.

Other capital projects include:

• $1.1 million for vehicle and equipment replacement

• $864,179 to do three blocks of road, sidewalk, water and wastewater main replacement on 49th Avenue

• $721,338 for Phase 1 of a soccer field project in the Northwest Recreation Area

• $311,501 for paving on 56th Avenue

• $489,248 for paving in Wolf Creek Industrial Park

• $230,000 for Henner’s Pond parking lot and trail

• $130,726 airport terminal building upgrade

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com