Did You Know ... During this year’s budget process Town Council raised taxes by three per cent and slashed about $548,000 from the Town’s operating and capital budget.


2010 Budget results in deep cuts and higher taxes

During this year’s budget process Town Council raised taxes by three per cent and slashed about $548,000 from the Town’s operating and capital budget. Cuts were made across the board.

The budget process involves consultation between Town Council and administration, followed by thorough review and revision of a proposed draft budget.

“Town administration staff meet with Council for general direction and then administration drafts a budget for Council consideration,” explains Chief Administrative Officer Doug Topinka.

Members of Council then examine the ramifications of the proposed budget from a tax point of view and recommend or request changes and adjustments.

“Council looks at balancing taxes against level of service,” says Doug. “For 2010, they chose to raise the tax rate by three per cent.”

The Taxation Bylaw, passed in May, shows anticipated expenditures and transfers for 2010 totalling an estimated $6,827,140, and revenues and transfers from sources other than taxation totalling an estimated $3,893,177. The balance, $2,934,088, is to be raised by general municipal taxation.

General municipal taxation includes residential and non-residential property, farm land, and machinery and equipment, all within the Town of Athabasca.

The assessed value of residential property in the Town of Athabasca is $248,713,790, and farm land, $33,180, each subject to a tax rate of .0073299, producing a combined tax levy of $1,823,290.

The assessed value of non-residential property is $71,098,750, and machinery and equipment, $81,620, each subject to a tax rate of .0156054, producing a combined tax levy of $1,110,798.

In comparison, the tax rate for residential property in 2009 was .007132, and for non-residential property, .015063.

Tax hike and budget cuts due to a few factors

Higher costs for utilities over the past year, a reduction in government grants, and planned upgrades to the Town’s sewage lagoon all contributed to the need to make budget cuts and increase revenue through higher taxes.

“We received information in February about substantial reductions in provincial operating grants this year,” says Doug. “These grants went down about $130,000 from the previous year.”

The Municipal Sponsorship Initiative grant dropped to $52,912 from $174,362. A Municipal Assistance Grant, worth $7,300, was cut completely. And a process of earning additional grant money through “bonus points” was not available this year.

Projects that benefited from some of these grant programs in the past included lighting at the Athabasca airport; energy efficiency upgrades at the Brick School; and upgrades to the commercial kitchen in the Athabasca Regional Multiplex.

Some of the cuts made in the 2010 budget included about $25,000 from the Athabasca Multiplex Society; $26,000 between the Community Economic Development Committee and the Athabasca Regional Development Committee; $5,000 from Athabasca Country Tourism; and a reduction in the Town’s contribution to the Magnificent River Rats Festival from $10,000 to $7,000.

Council also chose to transfer $91,000 from capital reserves into the operating budget. These funds were originally designated for renovations to the train station.

Another factor that affects the net income of the Town is new federal and provincial regulations and higher standards governing water quality.

“Our capital and operating costs are higher in order to meet those new standards,” advises Doug.

Tax Instalment Plan

Residents are reminded that property taxes are due by June 30. After June 30, outstanding current taxes are subject to a 12 per cent penalty, and after December 30, all outstanding taxes, whether from the current year or previous years, will be subject to an additional 12 per cent penalty.

To help take the bite out of making one large tax payment, the Town offers a tax payment instalment plan to qualifying property owners. The instalment plan allows greater flexibility of payments for property owners to avoid taxation arrears.

For more information, click this link and scroll down the page to “Town of Athabasca Tax Instalment Plan” or talk to the Tax Clerk at the Town Office.

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