County to take $1.5M from reserves to stabilize mill rates

Richard Froese
South Peace News
Big Lakes County has approved an operating budget of $30.7 million, down from $35.8 million in 2016.

The budget was adopted at a meeting April 26.

Council recognizes the affects of the slow economy in the province.

“We have to develop a strategy to move forward if the economy continues in a slump,” Reeve Ken Matthews says.

CAO Roy Brideau says he plans to guide council in discussions in August and September to develop a plan for the next three years.

Despite the funding shortfall, the county has found a way to balance the budget.

“We’re going to have a $1.5 million deficit that will be funded through reserves,” says Mark Schonken, director of corporate services, responsible for finance.

Although the budget and revenue have been reduced, the county will continue to maintain services.

“We will operate as normal, but we’re going to assess the budget for the future unless the economy improves,” says Schonken.
“We have lost more than $3 million in tax revenue, mostly from linear, and also in machinery and equipment.”

One major increase in the operating budget is the new carbon tax introduced by the provincial government Jan. 1.

The new fees includes a 22 per cent increase for natural gas, 10 per cent for electricity, six per cent for diesel, and five per cent for gasoline, the report states.

Several other departments have recorded budget increases.

Big Lakes Family and Community Support Services has an increase of $44,100, due mainly to expanding services.

The planning department has an increase of $130,000 for area structure plans for the hamlets of Faust, Grouard, and Joussard,

Salaries and wages are also more than last year, based on the county pay structure.

In the budget, council maintained the municipal mill rates for properties when the tax bylaw was adopted.

“The only changes are for schools and seniors,” Schonken says.
“We have no control over them.”

Mill rates have been set for farmland and residential properties at 4.25, with non-residential at 14.5, and machinery and equipment, also at 14.5.

The school mill rate has been set for farmland and residential at 2.3959 from 2.4133, and for non-residential at 4.4656 from 3.9753.

The senior mill rate for each property class has been set at .1661.

It is suggested that council will need to start taking steps to review costs and how the county provides programs and services.

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