Kneehill County council has passed its 2023 Operating budget of $28,644,444 along with its Capital budget totalling $10,490,853 during the regular Tuesday, March 28 council meeting.
Council and administration took a phased approach to its budget presentation, presenting various elements of the 2023 budget over the course of multiple council meetings beginning in mid-February; this allowed council the opportunity to more thoroughly review the budget prior to the final approval.
“You’ll recall, in 2022, the County’s budget document was awarded the Distinguished Budget presentation from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA); this award is the highest form of recognition in governmental budgeting,” explained director of Corporate Services Kinza Barney during the meeting. “We believe the 2023 budget also meets or exceeds the GFOA program criteria and we will be looking to submit documentation for consideration of the award again in 2023.”
The budget review process, on an administrative level, began in October 2022 to ensure it would align with council’s strategic plans and “overall future view of the county.”
Acting manager of Financial Operations Marika Von Mirbach explained there have been significant budget pressures between 2020 and 2022, mostly due to provincial policies. These pressures have resulted in increased expenditures and decreased revenues.
While the 2023 budget did not have “significant new budget pressures,” revenues and expenditures have still not returned to pre-2020 levels; this includes a loss of some $600,000 annually in provincial grants for infrastructure, and a total of $480,000 in additional expenditures due to provincial policing costs being downloaded onto the municipality.
The county anticipates receiving $463,302 in various operating grants, including $290,400 in Municipal Sustainability Initiative operating grants.
To help mitigate the additional pressures felt by the county onto its ratepayers, council approved a motion to transfer $200,000 from its Revenue Stabilization Reserve to help reduce the impact ratepayers will see.
Kneehill County ratepayers will still see some increases.
Council approved an increase of 10 cents per cubic metre for water sold through its water distribution system, including its bulk water. Ms. Von Mirbach explained this will equate to an approximate annual impact of some $22.50 annually for low volume bulk water uses which make for about 85 per cent of all water accounts; there will also be an increase of some $22.80 annually for ratepayers with a water connection, and $97.50 annually for moderate volume bulk water users.
Assessments were also up across the board by some 7.2 per cent. Ms Barney noted this will have some individual impacts with hamlet homes assessed at $150,000 seeing an increase of about $30 annually, acreages assessed at $350,000 will also see an annual increase of approximately $69, and farmland will increase by approximately $66 annually. Council also approved a $25 increase on the minimum tax levy, from $100 to $125.
Included in the Capital budget are several “key investments” which will support the strategic plan of council. It also includes some pre-approved capital projects including some $4.9 million for Capital Equipment Plan purchases which will benefit multiple departments, including fire services, road maintenance, and parks.
Council unanimously approved the 2023 Capital and Operating budgets along with the transfer of $200,000 from its Revenue Stabilization Reserve, and $287,000 from its Contingency reserve to help fund some one-time operating projects which include a wastewater assessment for the hamlet of Huxley, a fluoride reduction study for the hamlet of Wimborne, and an IT master plan.
Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, DrumhellerMail.com, The Drumheller Mail