By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Advance
The Town of Castor council has decided to raise the Town’s ATCO franchise fee from five to seven per cent.
The two per cent increase will translate into an additional $20,000 worth of revenue for the Town, which is currently facing a $16,000 deficit for 2020, with the year having not even started yet.
The increase to seven per cent would see Castor with a rate 3.25 per cent higher than Coronation, but roughly four per cent lower than Stettler.
The Town’s deficit situation is expected to get worse, as 2019 MSI funding from the provincial government has been confirmed to be $206,000, around $40,000 short of what the Town was anticipating.
The cuts from the Province are expected to continue, with MSI funding expected to be cut by a further 30 per cent in 2020.
Additionally, CAO Christopher Robblee informed council that beginning in 2021 or 2022, all municipalities in Alberta will be required to pay for policing services.
Currently, only municipalities with a population of over 5,000 are required to pay for these services. The expected cost is $6,000 to $12,000 for the first year, with yearly increases which will further cut into the Town’s operational funding.
“Increasing the franchise fee may target your residents, but it is the only practical way to target renters, who don’t pay property tax,” said Robblee.
“This way property taxes won’t have to increase as much. Our options are increased taxes or service cuts.”
A two per cent increase will translate to a revenue increase of around $20,000, which could then be used for the Town’s operational expenses.
The increase of the electrical franchise fee comes weeks after Robblee spoke to council about the prospects of beginning to charge cost recovery for Town-supplied services beginning in 2020.
The first service item to see an increase will be water, which will be seeing an expected increase of around $3.50 per month to the base rate. Cost recovery for garbage, sewer, and gas will also be phased in over the next several years.
Currently, the Town loses around 20 per cent on water services, and gas and garbage services also cost more than the Town recovers through fees.
“Everything is being cut,” said Deputy Mayor Tony Nichols.
“We need to prepare to cover our own costs. “