Three per cent tax increase, utilities going up in Cold Lake budget

Cold Lake is set to pass their 2019 budget tomorrow in council, and residents will have to prepare for a three per cent tax increase and increases in utilities and recycling rates.

Mayor Craig Copeland said it’s a “tough budget” and a lot of scissors were taken to spending.

“It’s probably going to be a trend you’ll see happening in Cold Lake,” said Copeland.

“We’re trying to make all utilities 100 per cent cost recovery. Basically there’s no new positions that are coming to Cold Lake. We’re cutting a lot of requests that came in over the year…we usually bring them forward for a council decision, but we’re cutting out a lot,” he said.

Residents can expect recycling rates to go up eight per cent, and water and sewer rates to increase by four per cent.

Roughly half of the city’s funds are going towards paying infrastructure debt, and their big spend is going towards expanding the RCMP office.

“It’s going to be about a $22 million capital budget, and so our big project there is going to be the RCMP building. The RCMP members are really cramped there and we’re going to expanding that building.”

Copeland says that for every one per cent increase in taxes, $200,000 in revenue is generated towards the city. That’s a total of $600,000 coming into the city’s hands.

The reason for the budget tax increases and conservative spending is the change in ID349 funding coming to the city.

While Cold Lake used to receive $25 million, now it’s roughly $16 million.

“As everybody knows ID349 has made a tremendous impact with the change… M.D. of Bonnyville, Lac la Biche County and Wood Buffalo did not get any of their agreements changed, but for whatever reason the province has changed the City of Cold Lake’s agreement. It represents a $10 million haircut on the capital side where we are getting the scissors on,” said Copeland.

The city has $8 million slated in their operating budget. Transit will stay free next year but will likely have the buses operating hours changed.

“The debt on the buildings like this one [Energy Centre] the new rink, the climbing wall and all that…all the debt payments are going to be paid by 349 money, so we leveraged the money like the province told us to do back in 2011, to leverage the money coming in and borrow against it, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Copeland doesn’t think spending the money in this way was shortsighted.

“None of those other municipalities were at the table in 2010, so they weren’t even in the room. It was all about in the Carolina Room in the ledge the City of Cold Lake, everybody came together the gov’t and the three other municipalities, and was about the sustainability of the City of Cold Lake.

“It’s not my fault the Town of Bonnyville wasn’t in the room and so unfortunately now ID349 has been rearranged and it will have serious consequences for the City of Cold Lake long term and we have a lot of big projects.

The city says they will be working on a 10 year capital project plan to figure out what projects are feasible for the future.