Kneehill County council approved the proposed 2022 Operating and Capital budgets presented during the regular Tuesday, March 22 council meeting.
Like many municipalities across the province, Kneehill County is facing reduced provincial grant support and increased costs, while also trying to balance maintaining existing service levels and keeping tax rates down for county ratepayers.
“You don’t want to overburden current ratepayers at the expense of future ratepayers,” Director of Corporate Services Bill McKennan shared during the meeting.
An in-depth presentation of the draft 2022 budget was given to council at the previous March 8 council meeting to gather feedback and recommendations.
Mr. McKennan noted the proposed 2022 budget is some $2 million under the previous 2021 budget. He explained this is mostly related to the completion of the Torrington gravel pit, which he noted was a “significant one-time project” that has supplied the county with roughly eight to 12 years of gravel supply.
This will create a “major reduction” to the county’s budget over this time period.
To maintain existing water infrastructure within the county, and prepare for necessary future upgrades, council was recommended to approve a $5 increase on water utility bills. Mr. McKennan explained this is the first increase users will see on their water bills since about 2010, and the rates would go into effect as of May 1, 2022.
Deputy Reeve Ken King noted, by making this increase, the county will be able to invest and plan for future infrastructure expenditures and maintenance and will help avoid future tax increases to cover these expected future costs.
Along with the increase on water utility bills, a marginal tax rate increase was also recommended to help with budget shortfalls. Mr. McKennan explained this would amount to about a $26 annual increase on the typical hamlet home and about $78 annually on acreages.
“We are still working on the impact on a percentage basis since changes in assessments will impact the actual increase or decrease on an individual ratepayers overall tax burden,” Mr. McKennan told the Mail.
He adds the 2022 municipal tax rates are expected to be set in late April.
During the previous meeting, Mr. McKennan explained the 2021 residential and farmland tax rates-3.14 per cent and 9.52 per cent respectively-were within the bottom end of comparable counties, including neighbouring Starland and Wheatland County, and well below the provincial average.
Council unanimously approved the 2022 Operating budget in the amount of $28,142,305 and the 2022 Capital budget in the amount of $5,230,332; council also authorized creating an infrastructure reserve fund to help invest and prepare for future infrastructure repairs and maintenance.
The full Kneehill County 2022 budget presentation can be found at https://kneehillcounty.com/DocumentCenter/View/6006/2022-Budget-Presentation?bidId=