County council approves 2021 operating and capital budgets

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Vulcan County council approved its 2021 operating and capital budgets last week.

The budgets show operating revenues of $21,044,567 (after transferring funds for the education and the Marquis Foundation taxes), operating expenses of $18,418,205 (including amortization costs), capital revenues of $2,582,032, capital acquisitions of $6,113,436, and capital disposals of $316,000.

That leaves the County with a balanced budget, after capital and reserve transactions have occurred.

“This is just what we need — I don’t think there’s a lot of extras in it this year,” said Petersen.

While Vulcan County keeps its mill rates the same as last year, the taxes of neighbouring municipalities are going to start increasing, he said.

“Just by default, we may be a little bit more competitive,” said Petersen.

Reeve Jason Schneider said one of the big selling features of Vulcan County is that the municipality has consistently lived within its means, with no major fluctuations in taxes.

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“I really hope and I do feel that we’re already reaping some of those benefits,” he said.

Before approving the budget, Petersen went through the budgets with council.

DECREASE TO ASSESSMENT BASE

The County saw a drop in its property assessment of $26 million, primarily from linear assessment properties, which include oil and gas wells, and pipelines.

“Our assessment didn’t drop to the level we thought it would,” said Nels Petersen, the County’s administrator, during the April 19 meeting. “With that, we had a small surplus from interim to final” budgets.

Council carried its interim budget in December.

FUNDS CARRIED FORWARD

The County was able to carry forward $1.1 million from 2020 into 2021, said Petersen. That was largely due to project delays, lower fuel prices, or activities not taking place due to COVID-19 restrictions, he wrote in a report.

FUEL PRICES

Fuel prices have gone up substantially in the past two to three months, noted Petersen.

“That is where the majority of where our surplus went,” he said.

CAPITAL PROJECTS

While Vulcan County suffered an assessment loss, the municipality was still able to contribute to its capital reserves, said Petersen.

“The big one there is the industrial park,” he said.

The County is putting roughly $329,000 into capital reserves for the construction of the industrial park.

With grant funds added to the County’s own contribution, just over $800,000 has been set aside this year for work at the industrial park, he said.

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Replacing aging bridges is the major capital project this year, said Petersen.

GRAVEL CRUSHING

The County plans to spend roughly $1.8 million on gravel crushing this year, with the funds being drawn from the gravel crushing reserve.

WASTE COMMISSION REQUISITION INCREASES

Petersen said the County’s contribution to the Vulcan District Waste Commission increases this year by about $71,000.

“That is largely due to their tipping fees and trucking and things like that,” he said.

PEST CONTROL

There’s also an increase of $31,826 in the pest control budget in 2021, the last year of the strychnine program. But this has no effect on the budget as revenues offset expense, said Petersen.

“We were seeing quite a bit of uptake and requests for that,” he said.

RECREATION SPENDING DOWN, CULTURAL SPENDING UP

Petersen said total recreation spending is down roughly $58,000, while total spending on cultural projects/programs is up by $7,000.

MARQUIS FOUNDATION

The requisition for the Marquis Foundation has increased by $100,811.

POLICING

The policing requisition is up by $61,966.

ROGERS CONTRACT

A new four-year contract has been negotiated with Rogers, resulting in savings in the second, third and fourth years of $8,661 compared to the current year, said Petersen.

“Our contract is up for renewal, and current year we’ll see a $5,700 savings,” said Petersen. “It’s more service for less money.”

FUNDS ADDED BACK TO RESERVES

Vulcan County is putting $67,000 into general operating reserve, he said. The County has had to draw down its capital reserves the last couple of years to offset taxes not received from oil and gas companies.

“That (money) is going back to replenish that,” said Petersen.

Another $50,000 is being placed into a specific oil and gas reserve, he added.

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