To build its budget each year, the County must balance the need to provide services, facilities, and infrastructure that meet the needs of ratepayers and businesses with the desire to keep property tax and utility rate increases at manageable levels.
Ratepayers have an opportunity to contribute to decisions that affect the County's budget. Having input from diverse perspectives helps the County better understand complex problems and develop ways to improve policies, programs and services for the County and its communities.
Budget 101: How the County's Process Works
Almost everything the County does has a cost associated with it. Councillors spend a lot of time on council making financial decisions. When making those decisions, their role as a public trustee is to safeguard the ratepayer's money and make the best use of increasingly scarce financial resources.
At the centre of the County's finance system is the budget. Through the budget, Council decides the County's priorities by setting aside money for each program or service. The budget is the single most important policy decision Council makes each year. Careful budget planning and control mean better services for ratepayers.
Unlike the Province, the County is not allowed to budget for a deficit. Something has to give.
The operating budget is a detailed estimate of how much the County needs to spend to meet its ongoing financial obligations and provide programs and services to the residents. The capital budget is money set aside for buying or building fixed assets such as buildings, equipment, vehicles, water and sewer facilities, and land.
The Unvarnished Reality
Council must reconcile some challenging numbers for the upcoming budget. Faced with the Government of Alberta's latest threat to reduce the County's non-residential assessment base, coupled with the Province's recent police cost download, a stagnant energy sector, and fallout from COVID-19, the County is facing a potential budget shortfall.
Unlike the Province, Lac Ste. Anne County is not allowed to budget for a deficit; as well, total actual revenues over a four-year period must be equal to or greater than total actual expenditures. Therefore, something has to give: budget cuts will mean service cuts; or maintaining status quo on services will mean a tax increase; or a combination of both.
What do you think?
Ensure your voice is heard on vital matters related to the 2021 budget planning process. Send your insights to firstname.lastname@example.org and help provide input into the programs, services and fiscal realities that will affect the region both today and in the years to come.
Without cutting staff, how could the County trim its budget?
What do you think of programs and services being offered?
How could service levels be modified in the next budget cycle?
Would you accept reduced service levels to avoid a tax hike?
Would an increase in taxes and/or user fees make sense?