Council approved the first four-year budget at the December 13 regular meeting, providing continued high-quality programs and service levels while addressing operational and inflationary pressure. This new flexible process includes the ability to identify significant and incremental changes enabling Council to amend the budget as needed.
“Citizens have told us that health and safety is their priority, and this budget puts the resources into the services that the people rely on every day and count on to be there when they need them,” said Mayor Thorn.
The $66M operating budget represents an overall 2.5% increase in the property tax amount, with the average homeowner in Okotoks paying an approximate $58.95 increase per year, or $4.91 a month in municipal taxes.
On the operating side, the community will benefit from significant investment in service level enhancements including the addition of 3 municipal enforcement officers, the addition of 8 full time firefighters, small additions to ensure compliance with lifeguarding safe swimming standards, snow and parks service levels and investments in some services to ensure 24/7 on call service needs can be met. This is offset by a reduction in RCMP services in the short term by reducing officers down from 25 to 22 and working on a future plan to restore back levels over the next few years. Additionally, Transit will now provide an extra half hour of service each day, and will be operating 7 days a week including Sundays and all statutory holidays with the exception of Christmas.
The operating budget also directed that the property tax operations formalize the investment in capital replacement of an additional $0.500M annually for the tax supported asset management strategy in alignment with Council’s Long-term Financial Health Framework. Council has also approved a $0.30M annual placeholder for their strategic priorities that are currently under development.
From a utility bill perspective, an aggregate increase of 2.80% across water, sanitary sewer, storm, and waste management utilities reflects the hiring of 1.5 additional staff, investments in capital replacement and inflation costs for these services. For the average customer, this amounts to an increase of $7.07 per bi-monthly billing period or $42.42 per year.
"This budget reinforces the need to make the capital investments in infrastructure projects that allow the Town to achieve their economic development and sustainability objectives,” said Councillor Heemeryck, Chairperson of the Finance and Audit Committee. “These investments demonstrate Council’s commitment to ensuring continued development to assist in the growth and diversification of the tax base.”
This budget invests in the two major capital investments in offsite levy projects including the supplemental water solution and Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrades.