Facing an economic crunch, Starland County is hosting a meeting with ratepayers to lay out its future.
Earlier this year, Trident Exploration ceased operations, and with this, they left their tax obligations unfulfilled. In a statement by the Reeve and Council in May, it noted, with the number of business acquisitions that Trident made over the last two years, it was by far the biggest taxpayers in Starland County, representing about 25 per cent of its tax base. This combined with a shrinking tax base overall, Starland has had to make some tough decisions.
Assistant CAO, Matthew Kreke, says Trident failed to cover its taxes last year and this year, approximately $3 million in revenue from each tax year.
Reeve of Starland County, Steve Wannstrom, tells the Mail the County has passed its budget and it is calling for an 8 per cent tax increase across the board. While the senior requisition and the Alberta School Foundation requisition did not change, because it is based on the overall assessment, Starland will also have to make up that shortfall.
“We are trying to make up 50 per cent of it in tax increase and 50 per cent in cuts to get it through this year, and then we have to work on a plan for next year because that is not sustainable,” said Wannstrom.
He says this increase is unavoidable.
“We certainly don’t want to do it, we don’t want it to happen just as much as everyone else doesn’t want it to happen, but we don’t have a choice,” said Wannstrom.
Kreke said much of the budget reductions come from contractor costs and holding the line on purchasing new equipment or taking on capital projects.
“It is not going to be able to go on forever so our job here over the next year is to come up with a sustainable financial model for the County going forward taking into account the loss of a large taxpayer,” he said.
Kreke says the County has a claim but it is unlikely they will see any money coming from the defunct company.
“With the new court rulings (Redwater ruling that stipulates that companies meet environmental obligations in light of bankruptcy), we are likely not going to be anywhere near first in line,” said Kreke. “The Orphaned Well Association is obviously not equipped for this and they are going to be the preferred creditor in this.”
The Public Information session hosted by Starland County is on Tuesday, June 18 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Starland will be providing a presentation, and councillors and senior administration will be on hand to answer questions.
According to a notice, over the next year council will be looking at all options to put Starland County on a sustainable financial footing and this meeting will be a good opportunity to have your voice heard on the services we provide.
If you are unable to attend and would like a copy of the material, please contact Shirley Bremer, Chief Administrative Officer at Starland County at 403-772-3793.