County of Grande Prairie property owners won’t see a change to their tax rate this year. Councillors have approved a zero per cent tax increase, as initially proposed in the interim budget from December 2020.
Reeve Leanne Beaupre says it is meant to address challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is one step the County can take to relieve some of the financial pressure. While the County still needs to collect municipal taxes to fund essential services like fire, waste management, road maintenance, and water supply, we hope the hold on the tax rate will help households and businesses in our community financially.”
The mill rate will remain the same as in 2020, at 8.5609 per $1,000 assessment for farmland, 4.075 for residential, and 13.581 for non-residential, machinery and equipment, and linear properties with pipelines and oil and gas wells, electric power, telecommunications, and cable systems on them. The final amount on this year’s property tax bill is also affected by changes to assessment, the provincial education requisition, and the Grande Spirit Foundation levy.
The County says the assessment roll for 2021 went up by just over three per cent or $284,000 to $9.55 billion. It’s reported the bill for an average residential property of $435,000 will be $2,872, of which $1,772 goes to municipal services, $1,080 to the province, and $20 for the seniors lodging.
The overall 2021 budget has increased by $32.7 million since the interim budget to $170.8 million. That includes an estimated $82 million for general operations, $88.8 million for capital expenses, and $5.8 million to pay the principal on debentures.
As usual, the largest chunk of the capital budget will go to road and bridge projects, with $31.8 million allocated. That includes 15 kilometres of road surfacing including the paving of gravel roads, surfaced road overlays, and reconstruction. The biggest ticket items are $7 million to replace the Rio Grande Bridge and Bear River bridges, $3.33 million towards the Highway 40 twinning and bridge, and $2 million to repave Highway 724 with the province.
The capital budget also includes $4.7 million to build a landfill cell at the Clairmont Centre for Recycling & Waste Management and funds towards a leachate pond at that location and for the next phase of work on the La Glace Community Water System. The operating budget includes $6 million for grants for organizations across the county and neighbouring communities, as well as an extra $973,000 million for Evergreen Park to support it during the pandemic, for a total of $1.4 million.
Change to fees are also on the schedule. Residents will pay and extra 25 cents each bi-monthly for curbside waste collection and recycling and the administration fees for Subdivision and Development and Joint Assessment Board appeals will go up from $75 to $500.
The County saw a surplus of $7.6 million in 2020, which has been transferred to the financial stabilization reserve for 2020. It came from an increase in Municipal Operating Support Transfer funding, more oil well drilling tax revenue than expected, and repayment for the response to the Chuckegg fire in 2019. Money was also saved by reduced salaries due to vacant positions not being filled and seasonal workers starting late, cancelled travel and training, and deferred grants.