Approved 2021 budget focuses on priority services with Zero Percent Tax Increase
The 2021 budget, approved by Council at the December 14 regular meeting, focuses on providing priority services to the community while mitigating the economic impacts from COVID 19 within a zero percent tax increase.
Although 68 percent of respondents supported a moderate increase to maintain priority services, Council opted for a zero percent tax increase to navigate through the challenging economic times of COVID-19.
“Input from the community was an important consideration in developing this budget so that it aligns with the service level changes that residents indicated they were comfortable with,” said Mayor Bill Robertson, “however it was also important to weigh in the impacts of COVID-19 and the economy, which resulted in Council not increasing taxes again for a second year.”
Approximately $6.3 million was approved for capital projects including, but not limited to, additional upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant and the addition of Solar Panels to the recreation center. Capital project previously approved includes the completion of the Arts and Learning Campus and upgrades to underground infrastructure along North Railway Street from McRae Street to Poplar Avenue with improvements to the streetscape planned for 2022.
Approximately $58 million was approved for operating expenditures including one-time costs to upgrade health and safety measures at the aquatics centre, undertake a feasibility study for additional indoor recreation amenities to support future growth, and to implement an online permitting system that will simplify permitting information for the public, and streamline municipal approvals required for development.
Funding was also approved to implement some elements in the Affordable Housing Strategy to advance the Town’s efforts to create more diverse housing that meets the needs of all residents at all ages and stages of their lives.
Council endorsed citizen recommended service level reductions for 2021 only, such as maintaining a four-day per week schedule for the museum and art gallery, and decreasing service hours for municipal enforcement. Permanent changes to service levels were approved for a reduction in mowing cycles and the amount of printed material produced by the Town.
The budget also includes a 2.26 percent increase to utility rates, which reflects inflation costs for these services.
According to a 2020 report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, Okotoks continues to have one of the lowest spending per capita rates in the province, ranking fifth for medium-sized municipalities.
Phase 2 Survey Results
Administration and Council want to thank those that took the time to participate in both phases of the budget engagement surveys. Your input will help the Town determine the community’s priorities and where Council needs to focus for the 2021 budget. Phase 2 began in early October and dug deeper into the community’s priorities by asking residents and business owners to make critical choices on community service levels and user fees. Phase 2 provided an opportunity for the community to share their priorities on specific service level changes and user fees. All comments and community feedback will be provided in the budget discussions and debates that will take place with Council and the Finance & Audit Committee between November 17 and 19. The meetings will be live-streamed for public viewing. Final approval of the 2021 budget will go before Council at the December 14 meeting.
Read the Report
This short video illustrates how the Town develops the municipal budget each year: