Lake Country’s chief administrator said last week there has been a lot of misinformation going around regarding a potential tax increase for Lake Country this year.
Alberto De Feo said Lake Country council has not yet finalized its 2014 budget and no decisions have been made on a potential tax increase. However, he said it’s expected council will have to raise taxes at least to keep up with inflation when they are presented with recommendations from Lake Country staff at a special budget meeting to be held Feb. 4.
“There is always a bit of an increase due to inflation and contractual obligations—between one and two per cent,” said De Feo. “But the rest will depend on council and the decisions that they make (on projects). We’ve met with council and we told them there are certain things that we can do that are not going to affect the taxpayers. There are a number of projects that we are recommending go ahead because there will be no change to the budget.”
De Feo said there are two major projects that will likely be the focus of much discussion and will require public funds to complete: The restoration of Bottom Wood Lake road to Woodsdale road with a total project cost of $1.3 million as well as improvements to Beasley Park in a project that is pegged at $840,000.
De Feo said the district has received grants and is in partnerships on both projects, but council will still need to find a further $700,000 to complete restoration of Bottom Wood Lake road as well as over $200,000 for the Beasley Park project.
“What we are doing now is we are reviewing all the projects that may affect the general revenue flow that comes from property taxes and make a decision about what is an absolute priority and we we need to do to get there,” said De Feo. “Those two projects are going to be the focus on discussion in my opinion. We understand the taxpayers are under a lot of strain and it’s not an easy time with the economy. We really understand what is going on. Sometimes what happens is we just reduce the scope of the projects if we can’t really afford to do certain things. We’re trying to be very sensitive to the taxpayer.”
Rumours have been swirling about potential tax increases in Lake Country due to a number of factors. 2014 will be the second year of five that many Lake Country taxpayers are paying a $50 rate to be included on Lake Country’s new water system. Last year the district unveiled a 20-year plan to deal with the district’s aging roads, something that will take a steady flow of taxpayers money over the 20 years and is also a factor, although council can decide it doesn’t want to begin spending money on the transportation plan this year, if it so chooses, according to De Feo.
“It’s a difficult budget because we are facing some really difficult decisions,” he said. “We are a large municipality in size but not in population. We have 200 kilometres of roads for a population of 12,000 and that is challenging. We don’t know yet what council will do. We need to know what they want to do and that could change the whole dynamic of the budget process.”
Lake Country council will hold a budget meeting on Feb. 4, at 4:30 p.m. at Lake Country council chambers. It is open to the public.