The 2021 budgets have been set and a zero per cent property tax increase has been passed by Rimbey town council for another year.
Council passed the operating and capital budgets unanimously during a special meeting on April 1, and passed the tax mill rates during their regular council meeting on April 13.
Mayor Rick Pankiw says this is the second year in a row, and the third of four years, where the town has passed a zero per cent tax increase budget, but to get there, some tough decisions had to be made.
“It was a very difficult budget this year,” said Pankiw, adding that it was the toughest he’s seen in his eight years as mayor.
With the town bringing in hardly any revenue besides taxes with its facilities closed for the majority of the past year, he says community groups “stepped up” to reduce their funding requests, which made the zero-increase budget possible.
One such group was the Rimbey Municipal Library, which had its budget reduced by $5,000.
Those organizations deserve a “huge kudos,” he said.
When deliberations started in the morning, council was facing a $150,000 deficit, which was whittled down to $5,140, which was covered by reserves.
Council says it was a lot of hard work and “council did a lot of heavy lifting” on April 1.
It was moved by Coun. Bill Coulthard to approved the 2021 capital budget as amended.
The changes included removing $39,00 for the Evergreen Walking Trail solar lights from the capital budget and reducing council’s IT expenses by $7,500 from the capital budget.
The 2021 operating budget was also approved unanimously with several amendments.
A revenue of $3,200 from the Canada Day Grant was added and $5,000 was removed from community grants.
The amount for animal bylaw contracted services was changed from from $28,000 to $18,000, and animal bylaw licences was changed from $6,0000 to $3,300.
Revenue of $430,00 from a contract to Ponoka County was added.
An additional $32,000 for the sale of equipment was added as revenue for the public works department, and the goods and utilities budget was reduced by $16,616.
Administration annual contributions to reserves were reduced by $7,500 (from $31,519 to $24,019) in the operating budget.
A motion was approved to transfer $5,140 from reserves to cover the remaining deficit.
Pankiw says the mayor and council are paid to make tough decisions that won’t always be 100 per cent positive, but he knows they did a good job with the 2021 budgets.
The town’s residential mill rate remains at 7.6666 and the non-residential at 9.7308, making Rimbey’s mill rates the third lowest of 16 surrounding communities for residential, and the second-lowest of those communities for non-residential, according to Pankiw.
When compared against 19 communities of similar size, Rimbey’s residential rate was the seventh lowest, and the non-residential rate was the sixth lowest.
Council decided to do a municipal rate comparison to show residents that Rimbey taxes are relatively low.
“Ours are pretty darn good,” said Pankiw.
Three members of the public attended the budget meeting.
The fee and services bylaw will be brought back before council on May 11 for council to review recreation rates.