Ponoka County council held a budget review meeting on March 24. During that meeting they went over the proposed 2023 budget line by line and discussed various points including increasing the mill rate to meet required ratios, as well as tax write-offs, and library funding requests.
Council discussed how the 2022 assessment had been increased, and the mill rate needed to be raised again to attain a 5:1 ratio, set down by government. When discussing residential taxes, it was noted that with reduction in school requisitions, those whose assessments had not increased, would not be negatively affected.
A suggestion was made to increase the residential mill rate to 1.95 to reach the ratio quicker. This would be up from the 1.77 mill rate of 2022. Letters would then be distributed to ratepayers to explain the increase.
Council then reviewed the overall revenue being proposed at $32,129,310 which would be down from the 2022’s actual revenue by $200,000. Points that have lead to the fluctuation in revenue included the closure of the Burnco pit causing a drop in gravel levies.
It was noted that three companies have expressed the need for water access, which will increase the water revenues.
The county’s donation to the Ponoka Youth Centre increased by $10,000 this year. This is to help cover the shortfall by FCSS cutting their level of contributions due to their new budget changes.
Ag facility contributions are also expected to increase, with utility rates being cited as higher than previous. There was also an increase in building repairs and maintenance. This was due largely to the need to replace ceiling lights and grids.
Other lines on the budget included Capital Public Works being down due to graders being unavailable for purchase. The county has decided on widening right-of-ways in road construction projects.
The county’s portion of taxes from the airport will be returned to the airport. Also the Bluffton landfill office is now finished.
Both local libraries and the Parkland Library have requested increased funding. Council unanimously approved a motion by Matejka that for 2023 the county authorize total contributions as follows:
-Rimbey Municipal Library, $55,000, and
-Ponoka Jubilee Library, $63,000.
The RCMP invoice had been recently received and totaled $612,904.
Coun. Mark Matejka then made a motion, which was carried unanimously, in regards to Forden Energy taxes from 2021 and 2022.
The outstanding taxes came to $820,570.61, and will be applied to the county’s noncollectable taxes account. The noncollectable taxes account has written of $4.6m in industrial taxes to date.
The cost of treatments on two county intersection and one county bridge was next on the list. The county will be transferring funds for these projects from the Development Trust account.
National Tire Recycling
The county has had all used tires removed from their property. The county has been selling mulch and matting at a fast rate. Removing the tires from county property has helped to reduce their liability.
A delegation addressed county council at the meeting in regard to the formation of Municipality Controlled Corporations (MCC).
The delegation was comprised of County of Red Deer manager Curtis Herzberg, IT Manager of Red Deer County Darren Young, and CAO for Paintearth County Michael Simpson.
They explained that Castor, Coronation and Delburne were looking at creating an MCC for fibre optic lines in their respective counties. The MCC would install and own fibre optic lines across their counties.
Currently it is the Internet Service Provider (ISP)who installs the fibre optic lines, and this means they are the only service provider that can use them. An MCC would allow different ISPs to access the lines to those in the county, and would create competitive pricing which would benefit the ratepayers.
The delegation also explained how the overall costs of installing the fibre optic line could go down and returns on the investments would go up as more municipalities joined.
Industry write offs
Coun. Bryce Liddle moved to have the unpaid taxes of 13 defunct industry companies be written off. The total amount would be $126,115. These companies were assessed in 2022 at various amounts. The motion was carried unanimously.