Residents in Strathcona County can expect to see an increase on their tax bills next year.
On Thursday (Dec.2), council approved the 2022 budget, which they say will maintain their programs and service levels while tacking operational and inflationary pressures.
The municipal operating budget approved for 2022 amounts to $397.2 million and will require a tax revenue increase of 3.11 per cent. For the average residential property assessed at $408,000, a homeowner will see an approximate $57 increase in 2022 property taxes or an increase of $4.73 a month.
“Since 2018, the county has been examining our programs and services to streamline and find efficiencies,” said chief financial officer Jennifer Cannon. “Over that time, we’ve reallocated about $24 million to higher priority programs while bringing in budgets well under inflation and reducing our surpluses.
Cannon added the budget responds to what the county heard from the public, which was to maintain services. She noted that while the county has worked to become a “lean organization,” Strathcona County has staffing needs that they cannot meet without increasing tax revenue.
Strathcona County Emergency Services have sounded the alarm for some time as calls for service frequently outpace available resources, and staff often find themselves responding to calls outside the county. Part of the tax revenue increase will support the county’s emergency services by adding 12 full-time firefighters. The additional firefighters will help manage overtime and ensure the well-being of first responders.
In addition, the budget will cover cost increases outside of the county’s control for RCMP contractual obligations.
The capital budget approved for 2022 is $57.5 million and mainly focuses on maintaining and repairing current assets in the county, such as facilities, park amenities, equipment, fleet, and roadways.
New capital projects will include open space and park amenities to mark the South Cooking Lake 100th Anniversary in 2023, the Deermound parking lot, and energy efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction projects.
Fees, rates and charges on municipal services are mainly flat.
Fees for water, wastewater, storm sewer and solid waste collection will increase by about $1.70 per month or 1.44 per cent for the average urban residential utility customer. For the average rural residential utility customer, the increase is approximately $3.01 per month or 1.64 per cent.
The increases will offset costs from local suppliers. As utility operations are self-sustaining, municipal property taxes do not support these services, except for recycling stations and enviroservice events.
The final municipal tax rate will be approved in the spring of 2022.