Wheatland County council passed its 2022 Operating and Capital budget, along with zero increase to its municipal tax rate at the regular Tuesday, April 5 council meeting.
During the initial budget presentation it was recommended council pass a 1.2 per cent increase on its municipal taxes, but council deliberation led to reducing transfers to reserves to offset a reduction of some $564,000 in tax revenues.
The 2022 Capital budget projects $18.64 million in capital projects and includes some $2 million for bridgework throughout the county, along with $6.54 million for road maintenance and general construction; some $4.9 million of this has been allocated for the reconstruction of Range Road 205 west of Hussar.
An additional $1.42 million has also been allocated for ongoing work on the county’s water and $372,000 for sewer work in 2022.
Based on the four-year Capital budget plan, these amounts are expected to increase to some $2.7 million for water and an estimated $10.42 million has also been projected for sewer work in 2023.
The $46.88 million Operating budget includes some $11.77 million in requisitions, including $10.18 million in Education requisitions and $563,418 in RCMP requisitions.
A total of $355,070 has also been allocated toward the Community Enhancement Regional Board (CERB) funding. This board is composed of two members from each of the county’s seven electoral districts to build community and support programs and facilities throughout the county through grant funding.
During council discussions, Division 4 Councillor Tom Ikert noted he would like to see the county “hold the line” on the municipal tax rate. While he shared he was not fond of “dipping into reserves” he felt it was more fiscally responsible to county ratepayers to maintain the current tax rate; he added many ratepayers will still see an increased tax bill due to increased property assessments.
Although three council members were opposed to the motion due to concerns reducing transfers to reserves could be seen as fiscally irresponsible, the motion was passed with four in favour, including Councillor Ikert and Wheatland County Reeve Amber Link.
Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Drumheller Mail