By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
New county taxes are on the way for livestock operations and the sand and gravel industry, after Lethbridge County passed second and third reading of three bylaws at a regular meeting held Apr. 21.
The Business Tax Bylaw, Special Tax Bylaw and Community Aggregate Payment Levy will now become a reality, after tedious deliberations and public consultation.
As for the Business Tax Bylaw, the 2016 county budget includes $1.6 million for road construction, $1.4 million for bridge replacement/repair and $500,000 for hardtop surfaces, which will be placed in a capital reserve for a future hardtop project.
According to a report submitted to council for consideration, the phased in approach to Funding Our Future, which includes the business tax bylaw, special tax bylaw and community aggregate levy bylaw will result in a total of $850,000 less in revenue in 2016, as the county moves forward to fund maintenance and reconstruction of the county’s Market Access Network, which includes 2,000 kilometres of roads and 167 bridges. The county, according to a recent report, needs to collect over $3 million annually to invest in this network starting in 2016.
Options for funding were unveiled at a number of open houses throughout the county with residents to obtain feedback about which option would suit residents and the county best. Council, after much deliberation, passed the motion to approve Funding the Future Option 4.
According to a recent report submitted to council, Option 4 is based on a two-year phase-in approach of Option 1 with 75 per cent of revenue from the business tax and special tax in 2016 and increased to 100 per cent in 2017. Option 1, the report stated, reflects calculations based on the economic impact method resulting in $925,740 or 26 per cent of revenue generated from special tax and $2,474,260 or 71 per cent from the intensive livestock industry through a business tax and the balance of approximately $100,000 or three per cent from the sand and gravel industry. The report stated the 2016 tax rate in Option 4 is $3 per animal unit and a 2016 revenue of $1,855,695.
The report also stated the county’s 2016 budget includes $1.6 million for road construction, $1.4 million for bridge replacement/repair and $500,000 for hardtop surfaces, which will be placed in a capital reserve for a future hardtop project. Under the Special Tax Bylaw, Option 4 2016 tax rate would be 4.4140 and revenue of $694,286. Under the Community Aggregate Payment Levy there will be a tax rate of $.25/tonne and total revenue of $100,000.
At the Apr. 21 council meeting, Diane Urkow from the county’s corporate services department said with the phased-in approach, in the second year in 2017 the plan is to take $4 per animal unit to give the county just under $2.5 million in revenue through the tax. Along with the special tax and the cap levy, Urkow noted, this will bring the total revenue to just over $2.6 million instead of the $3.5 million at this time.