City of Cold Lake passes 2019 Budgets

Cold Lake City Council passed the 2019 Operating and Capital Budgets with just over $65.1 million in total expenditures, forecasting an average municipal tax increase of about 3.07 per cent.

The 2019 operating budget was passed at about $52.2 million, including a transfer to the Capital Budget of about $9.3 million. Inclusive of the transfer, the Capital Budget sits at just over $22.3 million. For the seventh year in a row, due to an ongoing dispute with the Government of Canada over payment in lieu of taxes for CFB Cold Lake, the city has budgeted a significant allowance for uncollectable taxes. The 2019 allowance sits at $1.8 million, up $100,000 from previous years.

“With our ongoing dispute with the Government of Canada and the province’s decision to no longer abide by the intent of the city’s Air Weapons Range Agreement, our council faced a difficult budget,” Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland said. “The 2019 budget finds a balance between staying the course in hard economic times, tackling our infrastructure deficit, and making progress in areas our community will need to accommodate growth when our economic times turn around.”

Recycling rates will increase by $0.68 per month, or 8 per cent, to bring the service to cost recovery. Water rates will also increase by 4 per cent, with sewer rates rising from 60 per cent of water costs to 70 per cent, to better capture the operating cost of water services. In total, the average household can expect a $6.98 increase to its monthly utility bill.

While many municipal councils are expected to approve salary increases designed to offset tax changes made by the Government of Canada, Cold Lake City Council decided to forego the proposed wage increase outside of the cost of living adjustment as per council’s remuneration policy.

“Our council does their work for a very modest sum when you compare salaries to other municipalities,” Copeland said. “But with our community in a deep and prolonged downturn, and with no good economic news on the radar for the near future, we made the decision not to accept the increase to offset the federal government’s tax changes.”

Highlights of the 2019 Operational Budget include the continuation of the Community Capital Project Grant, a new community special event grant, enhancements to road maintenance and asphalt repairs, continuation of the sidewalk repair program, tourism advertising, and funding to maintain operations at the north arena. Council goodwill was cut from $100,000 to $60,000. And while no fares will be implemented for Cold Lake Transit, the service hours will be examined with council directing administration to find $100,000 in service amendments.

“There are some hours of operation where the transit may be underutilized and we can realize significant savings by making some small changes to the operations,” Copeland said. “With a small and relatively new transit system, and the challenging economic times, council decided not to implement a fare at this time, but save money by looking at what efficiencies can be found.”

The 2018 Capital Budget was passed at a total of about $22.3 million and includes spending in the following areas:

  • Environmental/Utility Infrastructure Improvements $5,225,000
  • Roadway Infrastructure Improvements $3,180,823
  • Fleet and Equipment Infrastructure $1,876,500
  • IST Infrastructure $245,000
  • Airport Infrastructure $1,730,000
  • Facilities Infrastructure $5,414,900
  • Planning and Development $675,000
  • Recreation Infrastructure $3,930,000

“Once again, the capital budget falls short of our community’s needs, but our council has made strategic allocations to ensure that our community continues to make a significant amount of progress despite continued setbacks from both the provincial and the federal governments,” Copeland said.

More information on the City of Cold Lake’s 2019 Operating and Capital Budgets, including a complete list of capital projects, can be found at www.coldlake.com.