Lacombe County council passes 2020 budget with 0% tax increase

 At its May 14, 2020 meeting, council approved the Lacombe County 2020 operating and capital budgets and tax rate bylaw. With immense uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the crash in world oil prices, Lacombe County Council voted in favour of a 0% increase in municipal tax rates for all property classes.

“These are unprecedented times that we are living in, and Council did not want to increase taxes when many of our ratepayers are unsure about the future,” said Lacombe County Reeve Paula Law. “Maintaining the services our ratepayers expect is crucial, and Lacombe County continues to be focused on both reduced spending and smarter spending. We are fortunate to have reserves in place, to help offset any increases that may have been needed for the 2020 budget year to ensure that no changes in service levels are felt.”

2020 Policing Levy

New for 2020 is the Province’s decision to charge all municipalities for policing costs. This has a direct impact on rural municipalities and any urban municipality with fewer than 5,000 people. Effective April 1, 2020, municipalities became responsible for 10% of this projected policing cost. This amount will rise by 10% each year, topping out at 30% in 2023.

For 2020, the Policing Levy for Lacombe County is $299,201 and will show up separately from the other tax rates on the tax notice.

2020 Tax Rates Changes

The 2020 tax rate changes for Lacombe County, Alberta Education, and the Lacombe Foundation are as follows:

Lacombe County – 0%

Policing Levy (new)

Alberta Education – 3.95%

Lacombe Foundation – 1.32%

Combined Total2.82%

*A reconciliation of levies and requisitions from 2019 resulted in an over levy of $444,336 and resulted in a lower non-residential education requisition.

Education taxes will represent 49% of the 2020 tax bill for residential property owners in Lacombe County and 39% of the 2020 tax bill for non-residential property owners.

Based on the new rates, 2020 property taxes on a $400,000 residence in Lacombe County will be $2,096.04, which is an increase of $57.44 from 2019. Residential property owners who experienced a decrease in the market value of their properties of greater than 2.74% will see a reduction in their property taxes.

Budget Details

The 2020 operating budget of $68,306,860 includes $12,727,170 in requisitions for the Lacombe Foundation requisition, designated industrial property requisition, and the Alberta Education Requisition. In addition to

including the final requisition estimates, several minor changes have been made to the operating budget as part of this final approval. Highlights of the Operating Budget include:

• Reduced revenues to reflect reduction of Provincial Agriculture Services Board Grant ($46,040)
• Inclusion of additional funding from tax rate stabilization reserve to fund budget shortfall ($328,890)• Reduction in wage expenses from deferring filling of vacant positions ($505,350)
• Additional grant to other organizations of $56,000
• Reduction in culvert expenses due to lower than expected tender price ($30,370)

Council also approved the capital budget of $33,546,220, and highlights include:
• Increase in road projects of $6.652 million.
• Increase of $861,020 for bridge projects, including both replacements and engineering.
• Equipment and vehicle replacements increase by $242,300.
• West QEII utility servicing increased by $5.69 million.
• Accounting and Records Management Software purchases are a carry-over project from 2019.Boiler replacement for County administration building ($35,000)

Maximizing Value for Residents

Lacombe County Council directed that municipal tax rate increases be as low as possible, while still providing sustainable funding for operating and capital expenses in the year ahead and ensuring that Lacombe County infrastructure, assets and services are maintained at appropriate levels.

“The 2020 operating budget, capital budget, and municipal tax rates have been established in a manner which provides for the continued delivery of a high level of important services and programs for our citizens in the most cost-effective manner possible,” said Tim Timmons, County Manager for Lacombe County. “The COVID-19 public health crisis will have significant repercussions down the road, which we will address in future budgets and when we have a better idea of what the local, provincial and national impacts are.”

**NEW** In 2020, the property tax payment deadline has been extended to September 30, 2020 to better align with the education requisition deadline for non-residential properties.

-Gerd Altmann photo