Kneehill County Council passes 2017 Budget

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Kneehill County Council is pleased to announce the completion of the 2017 Operating and Capital Budgets during deliberations at the Special Council Meeting held on November 9, 2016.
The 2017 budget process has had certain challenges as there has been a further decrease in assessments, with non-residential assessment being hit the hardest particularly on the linear side. The 2017 budget encapsulates a 14.5% decrease in oil/gas well tax assessments and a 9.5% decrease in pipelines assessments. As the linear portion of our tax continues to decrease, and is projected to decrease into the 2018 budget cycle by approximately the same amount, our financial and budget challenges will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
The 2017 budget has been completed with the goal to provide our ratepayers with the same service standard on all core services that our residents have indicated as their priorities. Road construction, road maintenance, solid waste services, and water have remained virtually untouched in the 2017 budget. Through streamlining our organization and removing those items deemed to be currently unnecessary, we are able to provide a balanced budget that requires no borrowing and minimal usage of the County’s reserve accounts.
In general terms, our net revenues are reduced in 2017 by approximately $2.1 million. We have been able to reduce the year over year costs associated with the operating the municipality. The 2017 budget takes into consideration large expenses such as the projected uncollectable tax losses of $800,000 and the impact of the provincial carbon levy. The carbon levy has a direct impact on the operating budget of approximately $120,000 with an additional increase expected in the cost of goods and services in both the operating and capital sides of the budget, as vendors will be passing on their increased costs to the County.
On the capital side of the budget, we have budgeted $2.9 million for our annual gravel purchase, $1.2 million for 68 miles of shoulder pull, and another $4 million (carried over from 2016) for our ongoing road rebuild program as approved in the Kneehill County Road Master Plan. We have allocated our 2017 and remaining 2016 Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding to the purchase of gravel and to the contract shoulder pull program. Carry over funds from the 2016 capital budget are being used to fund the 2017 road rebuild projects.
The 2017 Operational budget continues to prioritize core services such as road maintenance, snow removal, water distribution, solid waste, parks, and agricultural services.
It was Council’s goal to complete our 2017 budget with rationalized service delivery that did not sacrifice the quality of those same services. As a result, there is an ongoing commitment to our roads program throughout both the capital and operating budget. Other services our residents have come to expect are included in the 2017 financial plan such as dust control, sponsorships, and other grant funding programs which support our residents in our communities. Through the Regional Urban Sustainability Grant, money has been set aside to also support our small towns and villages, recognizing that each of their communities are vibrant, unique and have their own identity.
Council is also looking towards 2018 and the budgetary challenges that Kneehill County will face in future years. We are anticipating further losses in industrial taxation and our current forecasts show that in 2018 we can expect an approximate $2 million dollar loss of net County revenues with a corresponding drop in residential assessments. Council will be considering all possible options to minimize the impact of the projected future loss of revenues.
Through Council’s Strategic Plan and long term visioning, we are in a good financial position to succeed. Our previous decisions have left us in a strong financial position with significant cash reserves and no debt. We, as a Council, will continue to work in a responsible manner for our residents.
The 2017 Operating and Capital Budgets are available on the Kneehill County website.