Approved budget forecast reduces tax rate increase to zero percent
Okotoks Town Council approved a revised budget forecast for 2020 that reduces the tax rate increase to zero, while making it possible to quickly and efficiently adapt services to meet the changing situation created by the COVID-19 crisis.
“Every municipality in Canada is struggling with the same challenge; facilities are closed, programs and events are cancelled and there is ongoing uncertainty about when the situation will improve,” said Mayor Bill Robertson. “The global pandemic’s economic impact is affecting every community and all taxpayers in Canada. This budget forecast is designed to mitigate those impacts for Okotoks’ residents while creating a framework that will allow us to adjust quickly when things change.”
While the original 2020 budget included an approved increase of two percent in property taxes, the revised forecast is based on a zero percent tax increase. To achieve this new forecast, services in many areas of the Town have to be reduced, and 2020 capital plans and one-time operating projects have been reprioritized.
The result is that while essential and vital services will continue to be delivered, the community will look and feel differently this year. Council approved temporary service level reductions in park maintenance, street sweeping, line painting and conservation education. Council further declared that once the public health orders are lifted, it is forecasted that some service levels will continue to be limited such as the operating hours for the museum and art gallery.
While significant temporary staff reductions have been necessary as a result of mandated facility closures, the Town has been working to cross-train and redeploy permanent staff so that services can continue to be offered to the community. These changes have resulted in a forecasted saving of $1.2 million over three months and with increasing amounts the longer the facility closures are in place. Having qualified staff ready to return to their regular responsibilities is essential for the Town to be able to resume normal operations once restrictions are lifted. While facilities are closed, staff remain available to the public through telephone, email and online services.
Both capital and operating budgets for 2020 were re-prioritized. A set of guiding principles was used to determine the priorities, including continuing with existing budgeted projects that were already started, using non-tax related funding, and/or leveraging additional investments. Three capital projects include a utility replacement in east downtown area, Northridge Drive urbanization and replacement of the ice plant at the Okotoks Recreation Centre. Two new one-time operating projects were also approved – investments for business disaster recovery and the Town’s portion to fund a regional water study. The Town will also be actively seeking any government funding that may be available to assist municipal recovery from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Town of Okotoks has been recognized for being fiscally conservative and these 2020 budget amendments further demonstrates this. Council has ensured that our community is well-positioned to navigate through this unprecedented time,” said Robertson.
Previously Approved Budget 2020 Information
The budget process begins each spring with the Town identifying budget priorities, and it is finalized when Council approves the budget in December. The portion of funding that comes from your taxes is used to build your community and is treated with care, prudence and respect. It is vital that residents are included and have opportunities to provide feedback throughout the process.
Learn about the 2020 Budget
Watch the 2020 Budget Presentations
The budget agenda is available to view online and the budget discussions were live-streamed and the recordings were published to the Town website. Click on link below and scroll down webpage to Past Meetings to find the Nov 19-21 meeting links.
The Budget Process
2020 Budget Public Participation - Online Survey
The Town launched a survey that focused on the operating portion of the annual budget. The survey was available for residents to participate until May 17.