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Last updateThu, 08 Jun 2023 10am

Starland County passes budget, sets mill rate

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Starland County is feeling the pinch of inflation like every resident in Alberta and this is reflected in its budget and mill rate.
The County passed its budget and Tax Rate Bylaw at its council meeting on May 18. It calls for an approximate two per cent increase overall.
“Some went up, some went down. Corporate went up a little bit, linear went up a little bit,” explains CAO Christopher Robbie.
He notes that residential assessments were up as property prices across the province have been driven upwards.
“We are happy that we kept it at two per cent, and most of it was inflation of goods and services. We didn’t do any extra spending or projects, we kept the standard level of service. It seems to be working fairly well, but inflation remained challenging,” he said. “That is the biggest pressure on our budget.”
Starland County passed an operating budget of just over $16 million. Of that, $13.98 million will be made up by property tax. Starland saw a jump in its assessment with property values up overall by $32.4 million. Its total assessment was $700,266,360.
The county set its residential mill rate at 5.4154 and its non-residential rate at 20.6217. This is compared to 2022 at 5.3092 and 20.2174 respectively. Its farmland is at 14.1591 and machinery and equipment is at 20.6217.
The Drumheller and District Seniors Foundation requisition, which Starland County contributes to, was $411,731, up from $401,094.02 in 2022.
The county is hoping to boost its budget in the coming years by increasing its tax base. This year they hired an economic development officer.
“We felt it was time we focus on economic development projects that are in the county. They haven’t, in the last 10 years, had a focus on what ways the county should develop. That could be business parks, businesses, value-added agriculture or energy,” said Robbie. “These projects need a body to work them.”
He said the county is looking at small modular reactors to boost its energy sector.
“Our economic development officer is working hard on that, as well as an economic development strategy,” said Robbie.
“From an economic development standpoint, we are trying to look at ways to diversify our tax portfolio. You can’t have all residential, and you can’t all have corporate, you need it spread across small and large industry, housing.”

Drumheller RCMP officer shares kind gesture with tourists

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A family who was visiting Drumheller from the west coast of British Columbia will have an experience to share with friends and family back home after a wonderful encounter with a local RCMP officer.
Phil Lovera and his wife Adriana were visiting Drumheller to celebrate their grandson Theo’s upcoming fifth birthday, just prior to the May long weekend, and were taking in some of the popular tourist attractions when they had a chance encounter with Constable Victor Iliescu on Thursday, May 18.
“The hospitality we received was first class,” says Phil of the trip. “People were very friendly.”
According to Adriana, Theo is a “dinosaur freak,” and his grandparents decided to treat him to an experience rather than a traditional birthday gift.
The trio flew into Calgary and took in the Calgary Zoo before making the drive to Drumheller and visiting the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
On Thursday, May 18, the three planned to visit Tyra, the World’s Largest Dinosaur, but arrived about a half hour before it opened and were looking for ways to keep Theo entertained while they waited.
They decided upon a walk to look at some of the dinosaurs around the area, and about five minutes into the walk Phil noticed an RCMP vehicle drive past them and pull over.
Cst. Iliescu, who was driving the RCMP vehicle, approached the family and jokingly asked whether the dinosaurs were as cool as his police car and let the youngest sit in the cruiser and turn on the flashing lights.
This is not the first time Cst. Iliescu has had similar interactions with people in the community, and he says it is a great way to show people that RCMP officers are just regular people doing a job.
“It’s really cool to connect with people, and it’s nice to be able to stop and say hi,” Cst. Iliescu tells the Mail.
Community engagement was one of the priorities outlined by the Drumheller RCMP in its 2023-2024 fiscal community priorities which were recently released. Interactions such as these are a great way for RCMP to show people, especially youth, officers are not scary and can be friendly and approachable.
Staff Sergeant Rob Harms says, “The interaction between Cst. Iliescu and (Theo) is simply another thing we do in our day to day policing. Youth and public engagement is important to members of the Drumheller detachment, and it’s great to see that we put another smile on someone’s face.”
For Phil and Adriana, they are thoroughly appreciative of the experience they had in Drumheller, adding they had “nothing but good memories,” and Theo already wants to come back again.

Kneehill County grants tax exemption for family medical clinic

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Kneehill County council passed third reading of a tax exemption bylaw, which would exempt family medical clinics from municipal property taxes during the regular Tuesday, April 25 council meeting.
Council were first presented with the proposed bylaw during the March 28 council meeting after it was discovered the Kneehill Medical Clinic, which leases a portion of the Kneehill County administrative building for its operations, was not exempt from municipal property taxes under the Municipal Governance Act (MGA) and would need to begin paying some $91,000 in 2024.
“On January 28, 2015, Kneehill County and Trochu Family Medical Association with Three Hills Medical Clinic entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the goal of providing enhanced medical services to the Kneehill region,” explained director of Community Services Kevin Gannon during the March 28 meeting.
Kneehill County administration met with clinic representatives in August 2022 to negotiate the lease agreement, which expired in November 2022; clinic representatives had, at the time, agreed in principle to a negotiated rental rate of $9 per square foot per annum, or 75 cents per square foot per month.
At the time of negotiations, administration was unaware the medical clinic was not eligible for a tax exemption as it is not a non-profit organization.
Once it was discovered the clinic did not qualify, it was determined the negotiated rate would result in a shortfall of approximately $1,623 to cover the tax amount which was estimated at $91,623. This amount is set to commence in 2024.
Mr. Gannon noted the rental rate would need to increase to $9.24 per square foot per annum, or 77 cents per square foot per month, to cover this cost. As the cost of $9 per square foot per annum had already been agreed to in principle, council was presented with the option to pass a tax exemption for family medical clinics which meet criteria outlined in the MGA, such as having one full-time family medical physician, licensed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta working at the clinic. This would be a county-wide bylaw and could have potential future impacts if another medical clinic were to open within the county which also met the criteria.
Council gave first reading to the proposed Medical Clinic Tax Exemption Bylaw and also directed administration to arrange a meeting with Kneehill Medical Clinic representatives in order to engage in further discussions.
The item came back for second and third reading considerations during the April 25 council meeting. During this meeting, it was noted a meeting between the county and medical clinic representatives had not yet taken place.
Council unanimously approved second and third reading of the bylaw.


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