With the end of the year looming, the Town of Slave Lake finds itself about $2 million shy of collecting all the property taxes it needs to run the show for another year.
This news came at council’s Nov. 17 meeting, courtesy of the TOSL Director of Finance Roland Schmidt.
Schmidt gave council its quarterly update on expenditures to date vs. budgeted amounts. As of Oct. 31, he said, 63 per cent of the 2020 budget had been spent. Schmidt shared that information with council with the usual caution: I.e. it doesn’t mean the town is necessarily under budget.
Having said that, some departments or projects have in fact spent less than anticipated, while others are costing more. In both cases, oddly enough, COVID is largely to blame. It has resulted in higher costs in some areas and lower in others. For example, costs associated with running the swimming pool are down because staff has been laid off.
Health and safety expenditures, on the other hand, are up thanks to COVID.
The fire services department has already used up 97 per cent of its budget, Schmidt advised, and is expected to be in the red for 2020. One reason is revenue is well down from expectations. Another is unexpected vehicle repair items.
Overall, though, “It is expected that the town will not run a deficit for the 2020 year,” says Schmidt’s written report.
One possibly fly in the ointment is the amount of uncollected property taxes. It stands at over $2 million, which is substantially more than usual at this time of year. The grace period for paying (again, due to COVID) has something to do with that. About $1 million of the outstanding taxes are due to people on a payment plan, so they should be pretty secure. That leaves $1.1 million that is less secure. If those taxes remain unpaid well into 2021, it “could become a concern,” said Schmidt.
Mayor Tyler Warman, looking at the situation from a ‘glass-half-full’ point of view, said, “it is good to know that over 90 per cent have paid or are paying.”