County Council seeking balance to meet needs in 2024 interim budget

County of Grande Prairie Council approved the interim 2024 budget with a keen eye on maintaining vital services and programs, including investments in fire protection and home support, while addressing inflationary pressures and growth. A proposed 2.9 per cent increase in property taxes was approved for the 2024 taxation year, which is below the national rate.

Council worked with Administration to reduce the tax burden from the recommended seven per cent increase. If approved at final budget in the spring, the proposed 2.9 per cent average municipal tax increase would translate into approximately $56.96 annually, or $4.75 per month on a property valued at $482,000.

“For the past four years, we have done everything in our power in a challenging economic environment to avoid increases for residents, including holding the line on property taxes,” says Reeve Bob Marshall. “During that time, Council has been accessing reserves, withdrawing more from savings than we are able to replenish, which is not sustainable.”

The $157.6 million budget includes an estimated $109.5 million for general operations and $48.1 million for capital investments.

“Having the appropriate reserves to maintain and replace our existing assets and infrastructure is vital to ensuring a fiscally sustainable future for the County,” adds Reeve Marshall.

The County continues to contend with millions in lost revenue following provincial changes to assessment rules. Between the ongoing pause on taxes for new well and pipeline projects, which is expected to continue until the 2025 tax year, and the permanently eliminated well drilling equipment tax, the County has lost an estimated $3 million in revenue in 2023 for the first three quarters of 2023. This is combined with nearly $984 thousand in unpaid property taxes from the oil and gas industry. 

Highlights of some of the services, programs and projects Council approved for 2024 include:

  • Approximately 70 per cent of the capital budget is going toward road and bridge projects
  • $5.7 million in grants to various organizations for recreation, health, community, culture, seniors and special needs transportation, and libraries
  • $3 million in transfers to the provincial government for RCMP policing costs 
  • $2.4 million in Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework (ICF) Contributions, cost sharing agreements with other municipalities, including the City of Grande Prairie and the towns of Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, and Wembley
  • $1.2 million to the City of Grande Prairie for the revenue sharing agreement which has the purpose of fostering regional development (share of municipal tax revenue – 20 per cent from the co-generational facility and 10 per cent on any new commercial/industrial development in areas serviced by Aquatera) 
  • Installation of television services at the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital
  • Investing in home support to respond to increased need
  • Increased Parkland Patrol resources.

The 2024 final budget and tax rates will be approved in April once the amounts collected for education and property assessment values by the provincial government are confirmed.

Learn more about highlights of the 2024 interim operating and capital budgets in the Budget Highlights.

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Additional information: See Budget Highlights 

Media Contacts:

Bob Marshall
Reeve
780-933-2053

Joulia Whittleton
County Manager
780-532-9722

 

Budget Highlights

Capital Budget

Approximately $24.2 million is being invested in capital road and bridge projects including surfacing of Crystal Creek Estates and south of Arthur Lane.

Council invested $750,000 to enhance the County’s fire response, including a new Fire Prevention Officer position and eight full-time firefighters.

Grant funding is estimated at $6.6 million, including an estimated $1.3 million Canada Community Building Fund, an estimated $3.8 million in funding from Local Government Fiscal Framework Grant and an estimated $1.5 million Alberta Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program grant.

Some of the highlights of the capital budget include:

  • Two new wells to adequately support the Hythe water treatment plant
  • $30,000 for improvements at the Old Bezanson Townsite campground and day use area
  • $20,000 for fencing to protect the Hythe Willow Grove Water Treatment Plant

Operating Budget

The proposed operating budget for 2024 includes:

  • $5.7 million in grants to various organizations for recreation, health, community, culture, seniors and special needs transportation, and libraries
  • $2.4 million in Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework (ICF) Contributions, cost sharing agreements with other municipalities, including the City of Grande Prairie and the towns of Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, and Wembley   
  • An estimated $1.2 million to the City of Grande Prairie for the tax sharing agreement to be allocated to projects fostering regional development (share of municipal tax revenue – 20 per cent from the co-generational facility and 10 per cent on any new commercial/industrial development in areas serviced by Aquatera)
  • $100,000 for the Hamlet Area Structure Plan Incentive Program
  • $80,000 for a study to determine the size and location of a sewer lagoon system that can service the Hamlet of Bezanson for the next 25 years


Schedule of Fees and Rates Changes

  • Property owners in the hamlets of Bezanson, Hythe, La Glace, Teepee Creek, and Valhalla who are connected to County water and/or wastewater systems will see an increase of three per cent to fees due to inflation. Residential users can expect to see an increase of $1.32 to $1.86 for wastewater and $2.16 to $3.84 for water on their bi-monthly bills.
The updated schedule of fees, rates, and charges Bylaw will be posted in early 2024.