Cold Lake city council has finalized its 2018 budget, and it forecasts an average property tax increase of 4.8 per cent.
Mayor Craig Copeland says that on top of continued growth and an infrastructure deficit, they had to deal with the loss of $10 million from changes to the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range Agreement. The city found out in November its share of funds will go from about $26 million annually to $16 million, with the Town and MD of Bonnyville, the Village of Glendon, and the County of Lac La Biche now getting a piece.
“It’s unfortunate that inaccurate information persists surrounding how this new arrangement was made,” maintains Copeland, “but we arrived at a well-rounded budget after being blindsided by a massive loss with no meaningful consultation or warning of the magnitude of the impacts.”
In total, the operating budget is about $51.4 million, which includes a transfer of $9.2 million to the capital budget. With the transfer, the capital budget sits just over $11.5 million.
Included in the budget are funds to bring in Police Dog Services next year and to open phase three of the Energy Centre. The North Arena will be closed for half of the year, and its status will be reviewed in 2018.
Council also plans to continue the Community Capital Project Grant Program, which helps local groups develop facilities used by the community, the Sidewalk Repair Initiative, and Meals on Wheels. It also plans to continue free transit, but says a review could bring fees next year.
Sewer fees will go up from 50 per cent of home owner’s water bill to 70 per cent over two years. Other fees increasing include solid waste, tipping at the transfer station, rentals of sports field and arenas, the use of slips at the marina.
“Some recreation user fees will be increased, and the sewer rates will increase over the next two years to more accurately reflect the cost of providing these services,” explains Copeland. “Overall, the Operating Budget delivers the same service levels while giving our RCMP an important new resource. It allows for economic development and provides what support we can to community groups.”
As for capital projects, the city is funding $2.425 million for environmental and utility infrastructure improvements, almost $2.14 million for road improvements, and $2 million each for airport and facilities infrastructure. Recreation facilities are getting an additional $1.5 million, and another $1.4 million is set aside for fleet and equipment infrastructure.
“Although it was a challenge, and it falls far short of our community’s needs, our capital budget provides funding for important regional economic development projects such as the CATSA screened commercial air service initiative,” Copeland says. “This budget also gets a strong start on infrastructure needs such as a new public works centre and a new RCMP Detachment building, and will take a proactive approach to road maintenance that will save our city money in the long term.”
Half of the cost of the RCMP building and a mountain bike park are being funded, with plans to find other sources to complete them.