Okotoks, AB: Council approved the 2020 budget, which maintains service levels and creates opportunities for Okotoks within a two per cent tax increase.
“We considered the current economic climate as well as public feedback, which indicated that service levels should be maintained,” said Mayor Bill Robertson. “The budget reflects administration’s efforts to create efficiencies and opportunities for us to move forward on Council’s vision.”
The approved budget includes $62.3 million for operations and $17.95 million for capital expenditures. For the average residential homeowner with an assessed value of $450,000 the overall effect is projected to be approximately $46 per year or $3.86 per month.
The budget also introduced an aggregate increase of 2.39% across utilities (water, sanitary sewer, storm, and waste management) for 2020. For the average customer, this amounts to an increase of $5.77 per bi-monthly billing period or $34.62 per year.
Initiatives include $0.720 million for the first full year of Okotoks Transit, a local, on-demand, curb-to-curb service. Resources have also been allocated to hire additional firefighters to enhance community safety, and to reduce red tape for businesses, which will create opportunities to spark further investment in the community. Capital funding was confirmed to construct the new Arts & Learning Campus, which leverages important partnerships with Bow Valley College, Community Futures and local school divisions and includes a public library expansion. Funding for improvements to the wastewater treatment plant was also allocated in the capital budget.
“Initially, the draft 2020 Budget was presented to a joint Finance and Audit Committee and Council during 2.5 days in November where they recommended a property tax increase of three percent,” said Ed Sands, finance and audit committee chair. “At the December 9 regular meeting, Council identified additional efficiencies, which allowed for a lower property tax increase.”
The Town of Okotoks has been recognized for being fiscally conservative by two external sources. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) recently ranked Okotoks as the second most fiscally responsible Alberta municipality for operating spending in 2017, and the 2018 Financial Indicator Graphs, prepared by the Alberta Municipal Affairs, indicated that Okotoks continues to trend below the comparable group median for net municipal property tax rates for the last six years.
“The 2020 budget demonstrates the financially responsible direction Council has set to ensure that our community is well-positioned for the future by working towards initiatives outlined in our strategic plan, while continuing to provide the high service level our citizens have come to expect.” said Robertson.