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By Laura Bohnert
The final 2017 Budget was approved by Whitecourt Town Council on April 10, 2017. What does this mean for residents and business owners moving forward in the fiscal year?
The 2017 Budget is valued at just over $55.1 million. The amount required to balance the Budget is $319,253—an amount that translates into a 2.47 per cent tax increase, based on the 2016 tax rate.
The change to municipal mill rates will affect both residential and business properties—but why the need to increase taxes?
As Whitecourt Mayor Maryann Chichak outlined in a press release given on April 11, tax increases are an essential part of a municipality’s ability to offer its community members the programs and services it needs.
“Preparation of this budget involved balancing the need to increase our efficiencies while at the same time meeting the demand for enhanced programs and services,” explains Chichak. “With input from various stakeholders, I believe we have found that balance in the 2017 budget that allows us to maintain and enhance service levels for today, as well as plan and prepare for growth in the future.”
Budget highlights show the 2017 Capital Expense Budget to total $17,587,419 (representing a $765,462 increase from 2016), and the 2016 Operating Budget to total $37,571,483 (representing a $2,217,609 decrease from the previous fiscal year). Revenue from taxation is expected to cover a deficit of $13,235,497, following the 2.47 per cent increase that is required to balance the 2017 Budget.
Budget decisions are made with consideration of the residents and business owners it impacts. During the approval process, public input is actively accumulated through an online budget survey as well as a budget information open house event. Both forums are designed to provide community members with a space to communicate questions and concerns as well as a space to learn about the revenue breakdown and funding allocation within the Town.
Budget decisions, the press release stresses, are guided by public input, and any concerns or opinions received through the online survey or at the open house were included in the decision-making process.
“During budget preparations, our residents and business owners remained, as always, the top priority,” comments Chichak.
Taxation revenue accounts for 24 per cent of the municipality’s total revenue, but, contrary to popular belief, they aren’t used to accommodate just any of the municipality’s expenses. Tax revenue is allocated to specific designations, many of which support important community services, as is outlined by the municipal Budget.
Where are your tax dollars going? As the Budget reveals, 29 per cent of each of your tax dollars is allocated to Recreation, Parks & Culture; 7 per cent goes to Land Sales, Planning & Development; four per cent gets invested in Community Support & Transit; 23 per cent is put towards Roads, Storm & Fleet Services; 5 per cent supports Fire Protection services; 10 per cent goes to Police and Bylaw enforcement; and the remaining 22 per cent is allocated to Administration.
To find out more about tax allocation, the Town of Whitecourt’s 2017 Budget, or to learn about this year’s planned projects and initiatives, check out the Town of Whitecourt’s annual budget report, to be released after the adoption of the Tax Rate Bylaw by Town Council at the beginning of May, at www.whitecourt.ca.