Two per cent tax increase proposed

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A two per cent property tax increase is under consideration to help balance the Town of Olds’ proposed 2018 operating budget of more than $28 million.

Council will review another draft of the budget at its Dec. 11 meeting.

Administration updated members of the policies and priorities committee on its progress last week.

“So through our last service review discussion, priority setting, orientation sessions and other information sessions we’ve basically looked at all the budget pressures, all the wants and wishes, and then reflected upon some of the concerns that council would have to making sure that the tax rate was modest and was doable,” said town CAO Michael Merritt.

Decisions are still being made about what will be funded and how. The initial draft presented in early November contained a $500,000 deficit.

Council met Nov. 14 and proposed a number of changes. Combined with administration’s changes, the draft operating budget is now balanced at $28,405,550.

Items removed from the draft operating budget include funding a fire inspector position and an additional peace officer as well as a detailed design of the Highway 27 corridor.

Per diems for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference, if held east of Manitoba, were also cut.

Reductions in funding were made to strategic planning, brownfield improvement, advertising and Christmas lights.

Other projects, like a $75,000 upgrade to the campground washrooms, are still proposed, just funded differently.

While growth in property assessments and ATCO and Fortis franchise fees are expected to bring in increased revenue this year, some expenses are also going up.

Mayor and council per diems are increasing as are staff salaries due to market and step increases.

More money is also needed this year to maintain service levels in areas like sanding and salt material and other maintenance services as the town grows and adds property and roads.

An additional $20,000 is proposed to be added to the snow removal budget in a staged effort to reflect actual costs as averaged over a five-year period.

The draft capital budget — proposed at just over $7.5 million — has also gone through some revisions.

With the removal of a new fire inspector and new peace officer positions from the draft operating budget, there was no longer a need to include the purchase of vehicles for both positions in the capital budget.

A proposed fencing project for the RCMP parking lot, outdoor skating rink, additional Christmas lights and the purchase of a special events water wagon have all now been removed as capital projects for 2018.

A proposed $6-million town operations centre has been taken out of the draft 2018 capital budget with the intention it will be deferred to a later budget year.

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Lea Smaldon

Lea Smaldon joined Mountain View Publishing as managing editor in 2006.