Cold Lake City Council has written up a draft budget for the next year. Most important to residents will likely be a proposed tax increase of 2%.
The city is projecting about$42.2 million in operating expenditures and just over $18.6 million spent on capital projects. The budget allocates approximately $8 million in taxation revenue from ID 349 to balance the operational budget.
“After holding the line on taxes for four years, we are looking at a modest tax increase to balance the 2017 budget,” Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland said. “We are balancing the need to keep costs down for residents in these hard economic times with the need to pay for the increased cost in services and to keep up with our infrastructure needs.”
Council vowed not to raise taxes for three years during the 2013 election in order the bring the city’s taxes in line with those found in similar communities. Council extended that commitment for a fourth year in 2016 as a response to the slowing economy.
The 2017 draft budget forecasts a two-per-cent increase in municipal tax bills. As a reference, each per cent in the municipal taxes equates to about $190,000 in revenue to offset costs. Also forecasted is a five-per-cent increase to water and sewer rates to maintain 100 per cent operational cost recovery for those services.
Not included in the budget is nearly $4 million in provincial revenue sharing that the City received last year through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI).
“The Government of Alberta has not given municipalities a commitment that this funding – or a similar funding program – will be implemented in 2017, so we had to do our budget without it,” Copeland said. “We will wait to hear the government’s plan for MSI funding and adjust our budget accordingly, if need be.”
The draft 2017 capital budget totals just over $18.6 million, of which $16 million will come from ID 349 revenue. It includes $700,000 for the purchase of a new pumper truck and self-contained breathing apparatuses for Cold Lake Fire-Rescue, $2 million to extend the Highway 28 Twinning project south to 47 Avenue, and $2 million to reduce the debt needed to fund the Energy Centre Expansion.
An additional $2 million was added to the multi-purpose artificial turf field project. This will ensure the project can proceed fully funded, without the need to incur debt. The total budget for the project now stands at $6 million.
In total, the draft capital budget proposes about $1.7 million in fleet and equipment replacement and purchases, $2 million in spending on wastewater and stormwater projects and $6.2 million in spending on road infrastructure. Just over $8.1 million is budgeted for facilities, including money to cash flow the Energy Centre expansion, design an RCMP Detachment expansion, and enhancements at the marina.
“Our council is moving ahead as efficiently as possible with the Energy Centre Expansion, while ensuring our purchases fit in with the bigger picture,” Copeland said. “In some cases, equipment purchases are lowing operating costs, or programs are funded that will provide us with years’ worth of construction inventory, so we are continuing to look forward in all of our decisions.”
The draft 2017 operating budget covers the City’s increased share of policing costs due to its population growth. Urban municipalities under a population of 15,000 pay for 70 per cent of policing costs while those with populations over 15,000 pay 90 per cent.
“Growth in the City of Cold Lake pushed us over the 15,000 mark so were now in that higher bracket and there is a significant impact to our operating budget,” Copeland said.
The draft budget includes approximately $500,000 to cover the base increase and other labour-related policing costs.
Also included in the draft is $56,000 for renovations at the library and a $5,000 commitment to renew the free library card program, as well as $50,000 to help the museum with its capital program. Councillors allocated $54,000 for tourism marking, $40,000 to expand the Canada Celebrations in recognition of Canada’s 150th birthday, and just over $286,000 to cover debt payments for the Energy Centre Expansion. Cold Lake Public Transit will continue to be free of charge and council will continue to revisit a fee for service at regular intervals.
“We’ve largely held the line on our operating budget while ensuring we finance our debt efficiently,” Copeland said. “We considered a fee for public transit, but at this time will be moving forward as is. Our council feels that the benefit to a public transit system that is as inclusive and accessible as possible outweighs the revenue the service can generate at the moment, but this is a decision we will continue to revisit.”
About $24 million – or approximately 40 per cent of the city’s total draft budget – is estimated to come from revenue from ID 349.
“Once again we see how important ID 349 and our agreement with the Government of Alberta is to the sustainability of the City of Cold Lake,” Copeland said. “We have a commitment from the government to meet and discuss what the future of the agreement will look like, and we are looking forward to our chance to do so.”
All future meetings scheduled for budget deliberations will be cancelled, as the draft budget will be brought forward for council to consider at a future Regular Council Meeting. Public Open Houses will be scheduled and advertised to discuss the 2017 budget.
2017 Draft Capital Budget Highlights:
· Highway 28 Twinning (51 Street to 47 Avenue) – $2,000,000
· Multi-Use Artificial Turf Field – $2,000,000 (Total – $6,000,000)
· Annual Trail/Sidewalk Connectivity Program – $200,000
· Commercial Lane Paving Program – $400,000
· Annual Service Road Improvement Program – $500,000
· Fire-Rescue Pumper Truck and Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus – $700,000
· Marina Enhancements (including crane for sailboats) – $210,000