Residents and businesses will see just over a three per cent tax increase for 2018.
Bashaw town council, at its meeting April 19, approved a hike of 3.06 per cent for 2018 — a jump that will see a total of just over $727,000 in taxes raised.
The final number was arrived at during the meeting after Coun. Lynn Schultz showed concern with the originally proposed rate of 3.85 per cent.
“It’s a number that jumps out, it doesn’t seem that big, but in 10 years we are on pace to see our taxes go up nearly 40 per cent,” he said.
CAO Theresa Fuller said that while the 2018 budget was unique as it includes much larger spending than the town in previous years, there wasn’t a lot of waste to cut without impacting services.
“Spin it how you want, but we need and want residents. I don’t like to look too far ahead, but if we keep this up over the next three years, taxes will double and I don’t think that’s a good thing,” added Schultz.
“I realize our operations are not going to go down, but we need a plan to attract people and can’t keep them here at that rate.”
Schultz would rather see a maximum increase of three per cent. That suggestion had Mayor Penny Shantz ask Fuller what could be lowered or cut; that wound up being funding toward the Bashaw Beautification Committee.
“That is the only place in the budget where there is a little icing left on the cake,” said Fuller.
Following a few minutes of calculating, the 2018 amount for the committee was cut by $6,000 — enough to get the tax rate to an acceptable level for Schultz and the rest of council. If there is a specific project the committee needed more funding for, the town would look at funding it through its unrestricted surplus.
That surplus, Fuller stated, is upwards of $1.1 million. That being said, she issued a word of caution about its use as the list of recommended capital projects for 2018 will be coming to council very soon. Among that list is the continuation of a major street and utility reconstruction along 54th Avenue.
Coun. Rosella Peterman feels the cut is a good compromise.
“No one likes to see their taxes go up, but I appreciate the plan to get our streets fixed and the potholes filled,” she said.
“We all know that a lot of our residents are seniors that are on fixed incomes and we need to keep the lowest taxes possible, but we also need to keep the services residents expect.”
Water a major cost for Bashaw
When comparing the 2018 budget to last year, the overall budget rose by over $200,000 to a shade more than $2 million.
The largest increase — at around $143,000 — came across the board in public works.
The majority of that amount comes from the town having to purchase about $259,000 worth of water from the regional water commission. That works out to about 90,000 cubic metres for 2018.
That being said, a suggestion to hike the water rate to the $2.88 the town will pay this year was rejected as council chose to revisit the current $2.64 price when it sets the 2019 rate this November.
“The surplus we made last year is covering the lower price this year, but we need to look at paying what we should be paying next year,” said Coun. Darren Pearson.
Peterman feels it would be unfair to raise water rates part way into the year.
Recreation is about $47,000 higher this year as a result of additional arena maintenance and higher staff wages. The work being done includes rebuilding a compressor, replacing a heater for a seating area and work on the ice plant.
Administration expenses were up around $20,000 due to higher consulting fees plus a jump in how much the town must send to the province for education property taxes, while higher insurance costs and necessary upgrades to the fire hall pushed that department’s budget up by about $7,000.
Meanwhile, community services saw a reduction of more than $9,000 that included a $5,000 drop in the contribution to the operation of the Bashaw Medical Clinic and lower cemetery spending.