Despite financial pressures causing some grief in Alberta, Ponoka County remains on course with their 2016 budget.
Chief administrative officer Charlie Cutforth presented council with an update of the county’s financial situation for the first four months of the year at their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 24, outlining that the majority of revenues and expenses are in line with what was anticipated when the budget was approved earlier this year.
Tax revenue has increased somewhat – by about $340,000 – although Cutforth stated that is a result of the jump in assessment value with the majority of the hike due to an increase in the school requisition from the province.
He added that there might be a shortfall in the amount brought in through the linear tax assessment – which includes oil and gas wells, pipelines and utilities such as electricity, phone, internet and cable – though it should be minor and not likely to affect the budget.
“There is some good news on that front though, as revenue from the issuing of drilling permits is up as there is still some activity going on in the county, more than we had expected,” said Cutforth.
Given the economic situation and price of oil and gas coming into 2016, plus the bankruptcy of two companies doing work in the county, the budget only included an extremely conservative $25,000 estimate of revenue from drilling permits. So far, the county has secured more than double that amount.
Among the other budget figures that Cutforth noted was the $90,000 received from the contractor constructing the new bridge in Ponoka to pay for potential damage to the county’s road that was used by heavy trucks to haul material for the project, the nearly $833,000 spent on capital administration and the $90,000 expense for a pair of projects regarding water.
“That money from the contractor was predetermined to pay for that damage, but the road has come through all that work in fairly good shape,” he said.
“The capital includes the purchase and renovation of the new fire hall, the new county peace officer vehicle and the $120,000 advance that was provided to help with rural high speed internet – something that will be adjusted out later as it is going to be recoverable through a long-term repayment schedule that’s been set up with the company.”
The money being spent on water projects is split between $40,000 to the fund for Gull Lake stabilization and $50,000 for a study on the water supply and quality at Chain Lakes.
“The county’s last payment for Gull Lake will be in 2017, should there be no funds drawn to pay for any work this year as the county portion of that fund will have reached our 250,000 contribution limit,” he added.
In addition, Cutforth told council that the budget for the county’s firefighting service is well in hand, despite the lack of a detailed break down of expenses for both east and west district fire departments. That, he explained, is due to the new accounting system installed last year not being able to do what they need, but that is being worked on for the next report.