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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014 06:00 am

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County could get tax break

Sturgeon County residents may get a tax break this year thanks to an unexpected windfall from Williams Energy.

County council passed first reading of its 2014 tax rate bylaw Tuesday. The bylaw, if passed, would see property taxes in the county rise by an average of 4.28 per cent – about 0.8 percentage points less than predicted by the 2014 budget.

This drop is possible because the county has about $143.1 million more growth than it expected when it passed the budget, explained financial services manager Ed Kaemingh. That leaves the county with about $1.72 million more in tax revenue than it predicted.

“The assessment gods smiled on us,” joked county commissioner Peter Tarnawsky.

Almost all the extra growth came from Williams Energy, which recently finished a major expansion, said Rick Wojtkiw, general manager of corporate support.

This growth also reduces the effect that the annual requisitions from the Sturgeon Foundation and the Alberta School Foundation will have on the average homeowner, a report to council suggests.

Homeowners can expect to pay $36 less to the school fund this year (instead of $43 more as predicted) and $9 less to the seniors’ foundation (instead of $4 more).

Council moved to have $850,000 of the extra cash put towards this year’s transportation equipment budget to reduce debt. The motion meant that council did not have to borrow $850,000 to buy two motor graders and a wheeled scraper.

Mayor Tom Flynn noted that this move will save the county significant dollars in the future in terms of interest payments.

Council also moved to put $297,780 back into reserves that it had taken out to provide a cushion in case of fluctuations in growth.

Council put another $309,109 into reserves to make up for cash it took out last year to fix drainage issues in Pinnacle Ridge and Riverstone Pointe.

Flynn said he was really happy to see money going into drainage issues, as they are the source of many of the county’s road problems.

Council still has about $260,318 of extra cash to allocate at this point.

Administration has suggested putting $219,000 of that cash towards non-residential tax relief, which would reduce the non-residential tax hike to $387 per million of assessment from $492 as set in the budget. The county’s non-residential tax rate is higher than that of the other three counties around Edmonton, a report to council notes.

Council could then put $38,000 toward residential tax relief, which would reduce this year’s residential tax hike to $25 from $118. The county’s residential rates are already amongst the lowest in the capital region.

Council plans to debate what to do with the cash at a retreat next Monday.

The bylaw returns to council May 13.

County’s MDP approved

Sturgeon County has approved its blueprint for the future – a blueprint that’s been almost five years in development.

County council voted in favour of third reading of its new municipal development plan (MDP) Tuesday. The 191-page document divides the county into 10 different zones and sets out how they will develop until 2044.

Work on the MDP – the county’s first one since 1996 – started about four-and-a-half years ago. County officials withdrew it twice from the Capital Region Board in the face of opposition from communities like St. Albert and Edmonton.

The board finally approved the plan earlier this month after Edmonton withdrew its appeal.

Coun. Karen Shaw thanked all the administrators and county residents who helped make this plan possible.

“This has been a long, long journey,” she said.

Flynn’s diplomatic efforts at the Capital Region Board were instrumental in the plan’s success, she added.

Flynn thanked everyone for their work on this project.

“It’s a great day for Sturgeon County,” he said.


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