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Blackfalds council amends 2017 budget

 Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe

Blackfalds Town Council made amendments to their 2017 budget during their regular meeting on Tuesday.

The amendments were made to reflect the final assessment numbers received in February, as well as the Alberta school requisition and seniors’ foundation numbers.

Changes include an increase in requisition of 13. 3 per cent, foundation increase of seven per cent and an increase of $141,000 in property taxes due to new assessment. The addition of $17,000 for Protective Services for the purchase of Jaws of Life inadvertently let out of the budget and an increase in the capital budget of $30,000 to cover a mower for the recreation and parks department were also among changes.

Despite amendments, Blackfalds is still expected to see a surplus, with the 0.7 per cent tax increase equating to $67,000 increase in taxes, or roughly $5 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

With the unforeseen $141,000 increase in property taxes due to new assessment, Town of Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol suggested it might be worthwhile to look at adjusting the 0.7 per cent increase to property tax as approved in the 2017 budget.

“Budget is a process. We get new information,” Stol said, noting other area communities were having similar conversations. “I think it’s unfair to everyone if we don’t bring this up and talk about it.

“If we’re going to have a surplus after doing all of our budget work, why would we tax people more when we don’t need to?”

Coun. Richard Poole, however, disagreed with the idea of lowering the tax rate at this point in the year.

He said council had spent a great deal of time coming to the 0.7 per cent figure at the end of last year, and to lower it could potentially put the future council behind.

Coun. Will Taylor shared similar sentiments.

“There is strength in leaving it as is. We’re only talking about $18 (savings) for the average home,” he said. “If the increase isn’t needed next year than we can deal with it, but it’s already in the envelope and I think…positionally for next year we’ve done the right thing.”

Council chose not to change the tax rate increase, and voted unanimously in favour of the amendments.

The 2017 Tax Rate Bylaw was also given approval with the mill rate increasing by 0.195. The 2017 mill rate will be 7.5670 for residential, while the rate for non-residential is 9.3470.

The increase was driven by the deflation of property value from $319,170 on the average home in Blackfalds down to $305,465.

The tax totals to be collected by the town will be $9.851-million for municipal taxes, $3.413-million for school requisition and $82,993 for the Lacombe Foundation.


Cottonwood School Playground

A design has finally been chosen for the Cottonwood/school playgrounds.

Council approved a BDI Play Design option recommended by the Recreation, Culture and Parks Board for a budget of $225,000.

The option was voted on by the board, as well as school, student and parent representatives from both Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus and St. Gregory the Great Catholic School.

Two different playgrounds will be installed – one geared towards those 5-8 years of age and one for ages 9-12 – with both including accessibility features, and an additional special needs saucer swing.

South St. local improvements

Town council gave approval to the local improvement bylaw for South St. upgrades on the east side of Vista Trail.

The bylaw authorizes the Town of Blackfalds to impose a local improvement tax to the lands benefitting from the extension of South St. water, sanitary, fire suppression, landscaping, streetlights and paving of the area from Vista Trail to the west to the end of the street.

The bylaw was originally brought forward to council for first reading in mid-March. Without the bylaw, the project would not be able to proceed as it would not be funded under the 2017 Capital Projects.


Public Inquiry System

The Town of Blackfalds will soon have a few more ways to engage and interact with citizens to better the community.

Within the next few months, a fully branded Town of Blackfalds app for both iPhone and Android operating systems will launch in conjunction with a public inquiry system.

A presentation on the system, known as SeeClickFix, was made to council, detailing how residents can report issues such as potholes, graffiti, parking violations, amongst others, quickly, with more commonly reported items bumped up in the queue to be addressed.

Councillors were highly in favour of the system, which is currently in use in the municipalities of St. Albert, Okotoks and Revelstoke.

“I really appreciate this. I feel this is something that’s going to be very user friendly because when you want to report stuff you’ve got to go through the entire website to find who to contact,” said Coun. Nicole Sutherland.

Coun. Will Taylor agreed.

“I’m super excited about this. I think it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s taking our service level to the next peak.”

The service will cost $7,929 annually, funded through the Information Technology operating funds.

The next council meeting will be April 25 at 7 p.m. in council chambers. 

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