By Cole Parkinson
With 2021 on the horizon, the Municipal District of Taber have viewed the 2021 interim capital and operating budgets.
During council’s regular meeting on Dec. 8, councillors had one final chance to view their financials before passing their interim budgets.
The 2021 proposed interim operating budget projects overall budgeted revenues of $25,348,977 and a $1,118,640 operating budget deficit which is a decline from 2020 which had a $24,747 surplus.
The 2021 operating budget also car- ries a non-cash expense of $4,309,199 for amortization.
“The M.D. of Taber continues to be exposed to potential significant changes in linear oil and gas property assessment values, and/or additional uncollectable oil & gas property taxes, the 2021 proposed interim operating budget includes a projected net decrease of $1,088,515 in municipal property tax revenues, including pro- jected uncollectable property taxes of $2,117,000. The M.D. of Taber had reserved $1,029,000 as uncollectible property tax attributable to oil and gas properties in 2019. Non-residential property taxes arrears outstanding currently are in excess of $1,765,000,” reads administration’s report. “The 2021 interim operating budget proposes a per cent cost of living adjustment to salaries and wages, as well as staffing level changes in various departments that reduce overall salaries and wages costs to $7,392,422 (2020 – $8,136,024) a budget savings of $743,602.”
Proposed mill rates for the interim budget are an increase of four per cent in both residential and non-residential properties and a nine per cent increase for farmland.
Interim budget mill rates are based on projected assessments and the final budget mill rates are calculated based on the municipality’s actual assessment, which is not known until next March.
“Right now, we have a proposed increase of four per cent on non-residential property tax and the last few years we have seen non-residential struggle,” said Coun. Leavitt Howg. “Not only that, that is the industry we are trying to attract to the M.D. through at processing and such. Just businesses in general, and I think it’s a bad look that it is a consistent increase on them. We used to be on the competitive side of our neighbours and now we are on the high side so I think it will be hard to attract any new business.”
While a larger increase for farmland, Howg pointed to the fact farmland in the M.D. benefited from several servic- es provided by the M.D.
“A nine per cent increase in farm- land sounds high but in reality, the amount of money we get from it to support the services through grading and gravelling in all of our road net- works don’t really equate to much in the grand scheme of things,” he added.
Howg proposed a motion that there be no increase to residential and non- residential mill rates and farmland moved to a 9.972 per cent increase.
A question was posed to administration about what a zero per cent increase for all three would look like. “The increase for the four per cent for residential and non-residential and the nine per cent for farmland comes to approximately $560,000,” said Bryan Badura, director of corporate services, who also explained council could cover that cost out of reserves if they chose to do so.
“This budget projects a deficit of $1,118,000 and our amortization is about $4.3 million. With the current budget as presented, we are within that amount by about $3.2 million. We can have an additional deficit of another $3.2 million.”
Others on council were a bit sur- prised to see a proposed change to the projected mill rate due to the fact they had just discussed the interim budget during a finance committee meeting on Nov. 24.
“It creates some challenges for administration to do a quick change like this,” said Coun. Tamara Miyanaga.
“Knowing that we have the option to change it in the near future, once we have our assessment, we are still providing a guideline.”