Council approved the 2020 town budget that will see a 1.93 per cent property tax increase in 2020, a 2.76 per cent increase in 2021 and a 2.51 per cent increase in 2022.
An average home owner, with a single-family house assessed at $479,900, will pay $2,294.44 in municipal taxes in 2020. This is an increase of $43.44 from the previous year. If you add applicable utility increases, the increase amounts to $84.16.
To deliver on the property tax increase the budget includes a proposed expenditure of $43.4 million in capital projects for 2020, including: Transit Hub and Cochrane Innovation Centre; Railway Street West infrastructure upgrades; Centre Avenue and Highway 1A improvements; new Protective Services building and Horse Creek Sports Park servicing.
"This was a difficult budget given the economic climate of the province,” said Mayor Jeff Genung.
“I feel we found a middle ground, balancing the infrastructure needs of our community while being sensitive to the economic climate.”
Council deliberated at special meetings on Nov. 18-19 and agreed to reduce the tax increase from the original amount of 2.95 per cent. They decided to increase Cochrane Lightup and Labour Day festival funding to $30,000 a year; increase the community investment funding to $60,000 a year; increase Cochrane Tourism funding to $60,000 a year and increase the contribution to the infrastructure gap reserve by $100,000.
Funding for the Cochrane and Area Humane Society will decrease by $20,000 and Canada Day funding will decrease by $40,000. Council also voted to reduce the annual funding increase for Handibus to $0.25 per capita and will remove the annual census. The proposed summer program leader position and proposed 2020 RCMP office position have been removed.
Council will also freeze all management staff salaries at their current rate by eliminating the cost of living allowance (COLA). Council salaries are also frozen at their current rates by removing COLA.
At council’s Nov. 25 meeting administration was directed to amend the budget to include a $35,000 storage shed for Cochrane Minor Ball to be funded from the Facilities' Life-Cycle Reserve. At the meeting council also voted to increase Cochrane Tourism’s $60,000 to $77,000. The extra $17,000 was funded from operating reserves.
The budget will also include new staff positions for the Town and a decrease to the Economic Development budget.
More details on the draft budget can be found at cochrane.ca/Budget and LetsTalkCochrane.ca/Budget.