EXSHAW – The operating budget for the Municipal District of Bighorn will jump by 9.08 per cent next year, however the municipal tax rate for residential and non-residential properties will remain unchanged.
Councillors unanimously voted to approve the three-year operating budget as well as the five-year capital budget during a council meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 13).
According to the three-year operating budget, the MD will spend $4.3 million on municipal services next year, about $360,000 more than in 2018.
Reeve Dene Cooper said he was pleased with both budgets.
“I think they are prudent in the sense of cost management and future tax requirements and I think that the capital expenditures are designed for very important facilities like fire halls, public works buildings and municipal offices in the future,” said Cooper.
The parks department will see the biggest jump, nearly doubling its budget to $114,000 for improvements to trail maintenance and garbage collection in 2019. Disaster and emergency services will also see its budget increase by 68 per cent to $60,000 in 2019 for more public education and a social services emergency plan.
The operating budget also includes an increase in staff wages and additional funding for staffing in the planning department.
While there are no proposed changes in the total taxation revenue the municipality intends to collect from now until 2021, residents who live in the MD of Bighorn could see an increase in their property tax bill if their property’s assessed value changes during that time.
The tax rate for education, seniors housing and designated industrial properties is also likely to increase in 2019 and will be passed along to the province.
According to the budget, the MD requires $6 million in total taxation revenue per year to fully fund its operating budget from now until 2021.
The largest expenditure in 2019 is $922,000 to maintain the MD’s roads, representing 20 per cent of its total operating budget, followed by firefighting services at $336,000 or seven per cent of its budget.
The 2019 operating budget also includes $1.2 million in reserve contributions, including establishing a $50,000 reserve for flood maintenance, which will be topped up on a yearly basis.
An additional $440,000 has also been set aside for capital projects.
Looking ahead, the proposed operating budget is slated to increase by 3.08 per cent in 2020 and 2.25 per cent in 2021, however those increases are subject to change because each year council has to approve another three-year budget cycle.
As for the 2019 capital budget, the MD of Bighorn approved spending $6.7 million for various projects across the MD, including $2 million for a new operations shop. An additional $3 million will be evenly split for flood mitigation work to Jura Creek and Harvie Heights Creek.
The 2019 capital budget also includes $400,000 for wildlife fencing around Dead Man’s Flats, however the controversial project has faced strong opposition from residents in the hamlet and it’s unclear if the project will move forward as it is currently envisioned in the hamlet’s area structure plan.
The capital budget for 2020 is expected to drop significantly to $927,000, as the municipality wraps up the majority of its flood mitigation projects before gradually increasing again to $1.4 million in 2021, $4.7 million in 2022 and $4.3 million in 2023.
Among the various capital projects on the horizon, $500,000 has been earmarked to replace the Exshaw pedestrian bridge in 2021, which will need to be replaced when flood mitigation work is completed on Exshaw Creek next year.