For the Lakeside Leader
Big Lakes County has approved an operating budget of $30.7 million, down from $35.8 million in 2016. The budget was adopted at a meeting on April 26.
Despite the funding shortfall, council found a way to balance the budget.
“We’re going to have a $1.5 million deficit that will be funded through reserves,” said Mark Schonken, director of corporate services for the county.
Although the budget and revenue have been reduced, the county will maintain services.
“We will operate as normal,” said Schonken, “but we’re going to assess the budget for the future unless the economy improves. We have lost more than $3 million in tax revenue, mostly from linear, and also in machinery and equipment.”
One major increase in the new budget is the provincial carbon tax. That includes a 22 per cent increase for natural gas, 10 per cent for electricity, six per cent for diesel and five per cent for gasoline.
Several county departments have recorded budget increases. Big Lakes Family and Community Support Services has an increase of $44,100, due mainly to expanding services. The planning department has an increase of $130,000 for area structure plans for the hamlets of Faust, Grouard and Joussard.
Salaries and wages are also more than last year, based on the county pay structure.
In the budget, the county maintained mill rates for properties when the tax bylaw was adopted.
“The only changes are for schools and seniors,” Schonken said. “We have no control over them.”