Big Lakes ratepayers facing tax hike in 2023

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Taxpayers in Big Lakes County are facing a proposed tax rate increase of more than six per cent.
At its regular meeting Dec. 14, council adopted an interim operating budget of $32,581,551 in revenues and expenses of $26,058,751, excluding salaries, wages and benefits.
The interim operating budget meets rising costs, inflation and reduced revenue, says Dave Reynolds, director of corporate services.
“Municipal tax revenue is based on preliminary 2022 assessed values and a 6.16 per cent increase in the municipal tax rate,” Reynolds says.
Tax rates will be set when council adopts the final budget in the spring.
Salaries and wages were increased by about $304,000 to account for a three per cent increase for the cost of living allowance (COLA) for staff and grid step increases.
Firefighters will also be added after the council introduced a program to pay firefighters for their service on calls starting in 2023.
Transfers to other neighbouring municipalities increased by about $792,000 based on the Inter-municipal Collaboration Framework (ICF) agreements with the Town of High Prairie, the Town of Swan Hills and the Little Smoky Ski Area in the M.D. of Smoky River, Reynolds says.
He adds the budget will protect services to residents.
“Current service levels will be maintained,” Reynolds says.
Utility rates are also rising in the new year.
“As the County continues towards operating cost recovery for utilities, water and sewer rates are set to increase by 3.8 per cent,” Reynolds says.
The budget allows council to contribute $1,763,002 to capital reserves, withdraw $1.5 million from operating reserves and repay $559,950 of principal on long-term debt.
Council also approved an interim capital budget of $20,626,721.
“The capital program reflects new projects, maintenance of existing infrastructure and/or completion on projects underway in 2023,” Reynolds says.

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