Under the Municipal Government Act, which all local municipalities are governed under, local government bodies, such as the County of Paintearth, are required to pass operational and capital budgets before Jan. 1st of any given year in order to legally keep paying their bills.
The budget passed during the Dec. 1st council meeting has an operational cost of around $13.1 million, and just under $1.2 million worth of revenue.
The remainder of the revenue for the County of Paintearth budget comes from user fees, government grants such as the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI), resident and commercial taxes and linear assessments.
Capital spending approved for 2021 amounts to just over $3.8 million, funded through restricted surplus, the sale of old equipment and projected capital revenue. Included in the final operating budget is around $1.4 million that is being put into restricted surplus for future capital expenses.
“This budget is a six per cent decrease in spending from the 2020 budget,” said Lana Roth, director of corporate services for the County of Paintearth.
What remains to be seen is what the corresponding mill-rate increase will be, however until assessments are finalized later in the spring that will not be known.
“It’s a safe bet to do spending decreases in budgets,” said County of Paintearth Chief Administrative Officer Michael Simpson.
“Linear assessment can shrink by 10 to 20 million in a given year in a regular climate.”
Also passed during the meeting were the Three-year Operating and Five-Year Capital Plan budgets, also requirements under the Municipal Government Act.
The five-year capital plan is calculated with a built-in inflation increase of around two per cent per year to account for adjusting costs.
During the Dec. 1st council meeting, council approved the write-off of around $435,000 in back taxes, with a significant number being owed by oil and gas companies.
“This is to write off 2017 and 2018 taxes that are still outstanding,” said Roth.
The reason the County is now moving to write off these accounts is due to the fact that a program through the Government of Alberta allowing municipalities to get a percentage of the written-off taxes back is coming to an end in February.
“In 2017, we wrote off quite a bit back then. These are coming forward because the Perk Program is coming to an end, and the last time we can apply it is in January,” said Roth.
The Perk Program allows municipalities to re-claim the education portion of unpaid taxes.
The education portion of tax is paid by the County to the Government of Alberta whether the taxes assessed are paid or not.
In total, the County will be recouping around $43,000. The remainder of the $435,000 has to be fully written off by the County.