Town increases property taxes two per cent, to cover $192,000 deficit

Joe McWilliams

Lakeside Leader

The Town of Slave Lake’s 2024 budget was approved on Feb. 13. Or make that the town’s 2023/24 budget, approved a year ago, was approved in amended form for the second of the two years.

The bottom line? It’s what the director of finance called a “modest” increase of $192,000 in spending over 2023. This should translate into $53 more in property taxes per household, on average, said Roland Schmidt in his report for council.

Schmidt’s report broke that down, for illustration purposes, into three examples, based on different assessed property values. On a property assessed at $200,000, it should amount to an extra $30 on the tax bill. For a home valued at $306,000, the 2024 tax bill should be $46 higher; and for a $550,000 home – an $83 increase.

In an apparent effort to ease the sting of the increase, the report mentioned that the initial spending increase had been estimated at $442,000. Getting it down to the $192,000 was accomplished by “resource optimization and fiscal prudence,” said Schmidt.

That could mean just about anything, but one way the town saved money was by cutting one of its two peace officer positions (see story on Page 7).

Another area of reduced spending is called ‘transfers to individuals and organizations’ in the budget summary. This includes $35,000 less to the library, and $25,000 less in Family and Community Support Services grants.

The budget report highlights a few areas of increased revenue, which serve to cancel out some of the cost increases that come later in the report. For example, the town expects to earn $120,000 more in user fees and sale of goods this year than last. ATCO franchise fees are up four per cent, amounting to $395,277 more in town coffers.

A new deal with ATCO Electric on street lights will result in $685,000 coming to the town from the utility company. On the other hand, an annual operating cost of $140,000 comes with it.

Not surprisingly, costs are up. On the personnel side of things, this increase is expected to be $630,000 in 2024. Of that, $435,000 is for new positions at the homeless shelter, and is covered by the province.

Contracted and general services are up just over $1 million, but again, a big chunk of that is for the homeless shelter and is paid by the province. That is not the case with the bill for RCMP, which jumps $220,000 this year.

The cost of materials, supplies and utilities is up $516,000 this year, according to the report. Most of that – $411,000 – is down to power and fuel.

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