Town can’t rest on its financial laurels

By: Wheel Staff

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jan 09, 2014 10:43 am

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Itís easy to call for town council to lower taxes and tighten the belt on spending each year, but the reality is itís a difficult balance to strike to keep costs low and provide services residents want.

Thereís always room to look for more efficiencies and new ways to do things, but a provincial report shows the Town of Okotoks already runs a tight ship and it deserves credit for fiscal prudence.

A Provincial report is shining a favourable light on the Townís financial track record showing Okotoks boasts lower tax rates, user fees, and lower spending, compared to 18 other towns and cities in Alberta. The report shows property taxes in Okotoks, for both residential and non-residential properties, are near the bottom of the field. The Town is also below the middle of the range on expenses.

Itís good news and the Town canít lose focus as Okotoks grows into the future.

Under the former 30,000 population cap, it was pretty easy to anticipate expanses and keep them under control. The Town knew how many police officers, firefighters, and how much infrastructure it would need for a population of 30,000 people.

The decision to grow changes the approach the Town will have to take to its finances. A growing community will require more police officers, more firefighters, new roads, more infrastructure and water.

A growing community will also bring new residents and businesses and with them more tax revenues, development levies, user fees and more utility charges.

That said, the Town needs to be careful not to put the burden of growth too heavily on residentís shoulders.

The Town has been slowly raising the taxes it charges to commercial and industrial properties to ease the tax burden on homeowners.

Whether theyíre homeowners or business owners, no one likes it when their taxes go up.

But, there is room for the Town to continue on its path of slowly raising non-residential taxes, while maintaining a competitive advantage over other municipalities to continue to make Okotoks an attractive place for businesses to locate.

Overall, the Town has a good track record of managing its finances and council will need to keep a tight control over the Townís expenses to ensure Okotoks continues to maintain its favourable fiscal position.


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