County residents could see 7.42 per cent increase in taxes

By Stephen Dafoe

Sturgeon County – The average Sturgeon County homeowner is looking at an increase of roughly $98 in property taxes in 2012. That’s the verdict after day one of Sturgeon County budget talks. Some member of County Council met with administration early Wednesday morning for the first of a series of budget discussions, looking at the overall picture and some more detailed examinations department by department.

The morning started out with a 13.9 per cent increase based on a projected 2012 budgetary shortfall of $3,577,770. However, some proposed adjustments would trim that shortfall by $1,667,687, leaving a 7.42 per cent increase to taxes. That figure is made up of 6.03 per cent operating increase and a 1.39 per cent capital increase.

The recommended reductions are largely in labour areas. It is being proposed the county reduce its seasonal staffing by four employees: two from corporate services and one each from infrastructure and public services. Two of five vacant positions would remain unfilled through 2012 – one each in engineering and planning and development. Additionally, a reduction in staff conferences and training allowances would help make for a leaner budget.

If Sturgeon County is able to hold their tax increase to 7.42 per cent, it is estimated the increase in municipal taxes would be $98 for 2012 based on the average County home being valued at $420,520. This would increase municipal taxes to approximately $1,409 instead of the current $1,311 for the average property.

A document circulated at Wednesday morning’s meeting shows the average Sturgeon county tax payer paying $1,311.39 in 2011, compared to $2,725,14 in Morinville and $2,964.83 in St. Albert.

Although administration is confident municipal taxes will go up $98 for that average County home owner, when seniors and education levies are factored in based on a 4 per cent and 1 per cent increase, respectively, it is anticipated the average County home’s total taxes would increase by $142.

For farmland based on the average assessment of $40,000, it is expected municipal taxes would increase by $22 for 2012. Non-residential taxes based on a $1 million property would see a $678 increase.

Infrastructure represents 43 per cent of the County’s proposed budget, a budgetary component administration said Wednesday was in the neighbourhood of 63 per cent a decade ago. Administration costs account for the next largest chunk of the County budget at 16 per cent, followed by utilities at 12 per cent.

Council and administration will continue to meet to look at the budget with feedback from councillors used to form a more detailed draft of the proposed budget by Nov. 28. Council is expected to discuss and debate that budget at its Dec. 13 meeting.

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