Coaldale Town Council Approves Operating and Capital Budgets

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The budget comes with a 1.84% increase in residential property taxes and a 3.22% increase in nonresidential property taxes while maintaining service levels and investing millions in core infrastructure.

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At its December 12, 2022, Regular Council Meeting, Coaldale Town Council formally approved a 2023-2025 Operating and 2023 2027 Capital Budget.

As per Section 244 of the Municipal Government Act, each year Council must pass a balanced budget. To balance its 2023-2025 Operating Budget, Council needed to find an additional $375,269 in revenue (approximately $360,000 to maintain current service levels and $15,000 to fund minor service enhancements).

The need for this additional revenue stems primarily from two unavoidable financial pressures: an increase of $274,493 in policing costs (100% of which the Town, due to its current cost-sharing agreement with the RCMP, must pay) and high inflation. According to the Bank of Canada, from 2019 to 2022 inflation has increased by 12.59%. What this effectively means is that a “basket” of goods and services that cost $100 in 2019 today costs $112.59.

Across the province, municipalities have had to contend with high inflation in the same way that individual households have had to contend with it. They have had to do one of three things:

  1. increase revenues (raise taxes) to maintain current services levels;
  2. cut back on spending and reduce service levels; or
  3. adopt some combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

In neighboring Lethbridge, residents will see a 5.1% increase in their property taxes year-over-year for the next four years. In Medicine Hat, a 4% property tax increase is being proposed. In similarly-sized Blackfalds and Ponoka, residents will see a 4.76% and 4% increase in their property taxes, respectively. In Innisfail, residents will also see a 4% tax hike, but only because services will be cut.

In Coaldale, Town staff presented Council with numerous options – most of which consisted in modestly increasing property taxes/franchise fees and one of which consisted in cutting services. Ultimately, Council decided not to reduce service levels and approved a 1.84% increase in residential property taxes and a 3.22% increase in non-residential property taxes. Council also approved a 3% increase in franchise fees on utilities, keeping Coaldale either in line with or below neighboring Lethbridge and Taber and well below comparable municipalities like Blackfalds.

With these changes, Coaldale residents can therefore expect a projected average tax increase of less than half of what residents in neighboring Lethbridge can expect – and for the foreseeable future.

“Every municipality in Canada is facing the same inflationary pressures and Coaldale is no exception,” said Town of Coaldale Mayor, Jack Van Rijn. “The price of goods and services has gone up everywhere and in a lot of cases, municipalities have had no choice but to either significantly increase property taxes or cut services to balance their budgets. Luckily, our Council and Town staff were able to find a way to maintain current service levels without having to significantly increase property taxes, and were even able to put together an ambitious capital budget that’s funded almost entirely through grant dollars and municipal reserves.”

As per the Town’s 2023-2027 Capital Budget, funding for some of these major projects and purchases has been allocated as follows:

  • $1,000,000 for a road rehabilitation and asphalt renewal program (2023); 
  • $1, 275,000 towards the development of the outdoor space/plaza behind the Town’s Civic Square building, including the construction of an outdoor skating rink (2023);
  • $495,000 for renovations/upgrades at the Coaldale Pool that include the installation of a waterslide (2023);
  • $395,000 for a new hydro-vac truck that will facilitate ongoing and emergency maintenance to the Town’s critical water and wastewater infrastructure (2023);
  • $85,000 for a new tractor with a snow blower attachment to facilitate ongoing and timely park maintenance and snow removal (2023);
  • $500,000 for outdoor bathrooms and a concession behind the Town’s Civic Square building (2023-2024);
  • $1,085,000 for an at-grade pedestrian crossing at Highway 3 & Land O’ Lakes Drive that will enhance connectivity between south and north Coaldale (2024);
  • $1,000,000 for enhancements to the stormwater ponds adjacent to the Birds of Prey Centre that is contingent on a $1,000,000 matching grant from the federal government (2024);
  • $400,000 for rehabilitating the skate park (2024-2025); 
  • $900,000 for intersection improvements at Land O’ Lakes Drive & 21st Avenue that will see the construction of Coaldale’s first traffic circle (2025); and
  • $7,000,000 for a new potable water reservoir and pump station (contingent on a $4,000,000 grant under the Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Partnership Program (2024-2026).

“As a Council, we’re extremely proud of putting together a well-rounded and financially sound capital budget that allocates funding according to many of the priorities and goals identified in our strategic plan,” explained Mayor Jack Van Rijn. “That plan was put together after an extensive public consultation process, and I can honestly say that this budget reflects much of the feedback we received during that process. From enhancing public safety and recreation to ensuring service excellence and investing in our core infrastructure, this capital budget really does cover it all.”