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County uses reserves to help balance 2017 budget

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The County of Grande Prairie has approved a $125.5 million interim budget for 2017. It won’t be finalized until the spring, but it’s expected that property taxes will be the same as this year.

“We understand that there’s challenges for everyone,” says Reeve Leanne Beaupre, “and we’re committed to keeping the taxes at 2016 levels.”

When talks started at the beginning of last week, council was looking at a $7.2 million deficit for the year, mostly from property assessments being down. However, Beaupre says they moved some funds around to make sure the budget is balanced.

“A lot of projects were funded by the reserves that we had, whether they were road maintenance reserves or infrastructure reserves. Those reserves are there for a purpose; even though we may take from those reserves we actually put back as well on the years that we actually have seen a surplus.”

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She adds that their municipal sustainability funds from the province were topped up this year, which was put towards 2017 just in case.

The County will be spending nearly $35 million on its roads and bridges next year. That’s almost 65 per cent of its budget, but Beaupre says it’s essential work.

“It’s a huge amount of money. We’re a resource-driven province, no different than up here; we see a lot of activity on our roads and we need to keep those roads open for not only the industry members but for the people who live out there as well.”

Beaupre adds that the roads have taken a beaten this year due to drastic changes in weather.

Another $4.4 million dollars has been set aside for recreation, community and culture grants next year. Beaupre says they’re seeing a greater need with the economy as it is.

“Because people are not able to raise the funds on their own, so you’ll see those groups come back to the municipalities asking for more help with what they need. Going forward, the government is implementing carbon taxes and levies on fuel and things like that.”

Other approved projects include a new playschool for Whispering Ridge, a transit system for Clairmont, and garbage bins for several communities with curbside collection.

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