Frequently Asked Questions
Why do municipalities have to develop budgets?
What is an operating budget?
What is a capital budget?
How does the County fund the budgets?
What is a reserve?
How is debt used?
What do your budget expenses fund?
How is the County’s yearly budget set?
What is a Strategic Plan?
When does the County approve the budget?
What is the approval process for the 2020 budget?
What are the changes to municipal taxes in 2020?
What is a municipal tax mill rate?
What is the overall proposed/interim budget for 2020?
What are your tax dollars spent on?
What are the changes to fees in 2020?
Under Alberta’s Municipal Government Act, every municipality is required to develop a three-year operating budget and five-year capital budget to allocate revenues and expenditures for their municipality.
To fund the programs and services, two types of budgets are created: the operating budget and the capital budget.
In the same way that you pay bills to keep the lights on at your house, the operating budget makes up the day-to-day costs needed to provide the services and programs that County residents expect and rely on. Examples include enforcement and fire services, parks and recreation facilities, and County staff salaries.
The County’s capital budget is like purchasing a home or vehicle – it funds major fixed assets for the future. At home, capital costs include your home, vehicles and renovations. At the County, capital purchases include machinery, vehicles, building, bridges and roads.
Council and Administration work hard to calculate exactly how much money is necessary to fund the programs and services in the operating and capital budgets and then generate the funds from multiple sources including taxable property assessments, net transfers from reserve, transportation levies and revenue generated from departments, federal and provincial grants and user fees and sale of goods.
A reserve is similar to a savings account. Every year, the County puts funds into the reserve. Money is only taken out of the reserve when needed and used for critical capital and operational budgets. The advantage of putting money into reserves is that interest accrues on a large portion of the balance.
The County typically only uses debt to fund critical capital projects where there are no funds available through grants or in reserves. Municipal regulations set by the Province set a limit on how much debt municipalities can use.
The County’s budget funds the County’s daily operations, enables the delivery of services, and invest in the critical capital projects required to ensure our region remains a great place for all residents to live, work and play.
Almost everything the County does has an associated cost, whether it is a direct service such as policing, snow removal and the purchasing of a vehicle to use for road maintenance or an indirect cost such as maintaining our facilities and running the municipality.
Council begins by developing an understanding of the challenges that may be faced and the priorities to be pursued. This information is outlined in as Strategic Plan and includes a Strategic Priorities Chart that is updated regularly.
The Strategic Plan guides us in our short- and long-term planning and serves as a foundation upon which the County’s Business Plan, master plans, division and department plans, and annual budgets are developed.
The County approves an interim budget in the fall annually for the following year. Final budget is approved in the spring once the province sets the final property tax levy for education requisitions, and when property assessment values have been confirmed. Tax rates will be finalized at that time.
The approval process for the budget is completed in the following stages:
The proposed tax increase for an average residential property is 1 per cent. That is a $18 per year increase on a residential property valued at $435,000. This proposed tax increase does not include the educational and seniors’ foundation levies we collect on behalf of the provincial government. The final tax mill rate including levies isn’t set until final budget.
The tax mill rate is set by the County and what property owners pay in municipal taxes. The tax mill rate does not include the education and seniors’ foundation levies that all municipalities including the County must collect on behalf of the provincial government. The tax bill that property owners receive every May includes the tax mill rate and the provincial levies.
The overall $143.7 million budget includes estimated expenditures of $78.4 million for general operations and $65.3 million for capital. Currently, there is a deficit of $3.4 million; however, the County’s budget will be balanced at final budget deliberations that take place in spring 2020.
Your tax dollars are spent on programs and services that impact your daily life. According to the 2020 interim budget, which is subject to change at final budget in the spring of 2020, for every dollar of your tax, we are investing:
- 49 cents into accessible, reliable, and connected road networks, bridges and other necessary infrastructure.
- 22 cents into Regional Enforcement Services, the Regional Fire Service, Disaster Services, Family and Community Support Services, Agricultural Services, Library Services, Parks and Recreation Services, community grants, and other community safety initiatives.
- 16.8 cents into running the municipality which includes staffing and resources for Council, County Administrator Office, Communications, Assessment, Financial Services, Insurance and Risk Management, Legislative Services, Procurement, Systems, Human Resources and Safety.
- 9 cents towards fresh, clean water, maintenance of our wastewater systems, and efficient and responsible waste disposal and recycling services and programs.
- 3 cents towards efficient and effective planning that ensures our communities are sustainable, growing, and vibrant.
Fees for the Residential curbside recycling collection will increase from $4.50 to $4.75, and from $9.25 to $9.50 per month for curbside waste collection due to an increase in contract hauling service costs.
There will be a 3 per cent increase in sewer rates, which amounts to a $1 increase bi-monthly for residential property owners; and a $2 bi-monthly increase for commercial property owners in the hamlets of Bezanson, La Glace, Teepee Creek and Valhalla.
A 3 per cent increase to bi-monthly water rates equating to a $3 increase bi-monthly for residential property owners, and $9 increase bi-monthly for commercial property owners in the hamlets of Bezanson, La Glace and Teepee Creek.
The introduction of a $100 fee to renew a development permit.
The updated schedule of fees, rates and charges will be made available in the beginning of 2020.