Friday , 28 January 2022

City of Cold Lake Council passes 2022 budget, forecasts 3.2 per cent tax increase

The City of Cold Lake Council passed its 2022 Capital Budget and 2022 Operating Budget, which enables them to maintain services while supplementing supports for vulnerable people, allocating resources to crime prevention and policing, and maintaining a foundation for economic diversification and growth.

The budgets were passed with a total of $70.5 million in expenditures. The 2022 Operating Budget was passed at just under $52.9 million, inclusive of a transfer to the capital budget of just over $6.9 million. The 2022 Capital Budget stands at just under $24.6 million

Council sought to balance a number of priorities while also facing a significant decline in revenue from provincial Municipal Sustainability Initiative Funding and a decline in revenue from the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range property tax as investment in oil and gas infrastructure has declined. The City is also not immune to the effects of inflation and the carbon tax. The budget forecasts an average municipal tax increase of 3.2 per cent, inclusive of an operating reserve to assist with future operating costs of an aquatic centre.

“We’ve held the line with zero or minimal municipal tax increases for the past five years, and the reality is that if you stick with zero too long, inflationary pressures will cause either a significant cut to services or a drastic increase in taxes down the line,” Mayor Craig Copeland said. “Council took a cautious, measured approach that will maintain services, provide for extra resources where the community told us they wanted them and will avoid larger tax increases in the future.”

About one per cent of the municipal tax increase is associated with the operating reserve to establish a fund for the development of an aquatic centre.

“The community has told us loud and clear for a long time that they want the city to build an aquatic centre at the Energy Centre, and these come at a significant operational cost,” Copeland said. “While we work on the design for the facility we will start to slowly anticipate its operating cost and build that into the budget over time. This will ensure that the new facility does not come with a sudden and significant increase when it opens.

Other capital projects include funding for the new Public Works Operations Centre, Phase 4 of the Kinosoo Beach Master Plan, another stage of funding for the Lakeshore Drive rehabilitation and linear parkway, 11 Street road and underground utility rehabilitation, and funding to complete the final phase of the Mountain Bike Skills Park.

The 2022 Capital Budget includes spending across a variety of disciplines, from fleet replacement to major construction of facilities and road repairs.

A breakdown of the spending is as follows:

  • Fleet and Equipment Infrastructure: $1,860,000
  • Environmental and Utility Infrastructure: $4,225,000
  • Roadway Infrastructure: $3,517,000
  • Facilities: $11,523,000
  • Airport Infrastructure: $60,000
  • IST Infrastructure: $406,000
  • Recreation Infrastructure: $3,005,000

In the operating budget, an increase of 3 per cent to the water and sewer fees was approved, as well as an increase to the waste management fee of $1 per month, to maintain cost-recovery on these services. Special transportation fees will be charged a flat rate of $3.50 per trip, irrespective of where in the city the trip begins and ends, eliminating a two-tiered system based on travel to and from two established “zones.”

It is also anticipated that the City’s contribution towards the RCMP contract will increase as the City of Cold Lake may exceed a population of 15,000 when the next census results are released, requiring the city to pay for 90 per cent of policing costs instead of the current 70 per cent. This in itself has a $680,000 budget impact, which will be transitioned into the operating budget over the next five years, using a restricted surplus established for this very reason. A charge will also be established for criminal record checks in Cold Lake.

Other 2022 Operating Budget Highlights include:

  • A top-up of the Social Inclusion Grant Program from $40,000 a year to $100,000 a year from 2022 to 2025.
  • $50,000 in Capital funding for the museums, as well as an increase of $2,798 towards the operating transfer for the museums.
  • An increase of $15,736 towards the operating transfer for the Cold Lake Library.
  • A funding contribution of 50 per cent of the commercial security program.

The 2022 Operating and Capital Budgets, along with details of major capital projects, will be available on www.coldlake.com.

About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is an award winning journalist and is from Whitbourne Newfoundland. Green graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, River Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner and can fillet a Codfish.