While councillors are busy reviewing the 2022-24 draft budget this week, residents may also be finding themselves in debate over some of the proposed items, including a tax increase of seven per cent over the next three years.
Cochranites expect a level of service in their parks, roads and programs that the Town will be unable to sustain without a tax increase.
The 2019-21 budget proposed a lesser, more gradual increase of 1.27 per cent in 2021, 4.29 per cent in 2022 and 5.71 per cent in 2023 but the proposal was shut down by councillors who instead opted for no increase.
This year CAO Mike Derricott said a focus of the 2022-24 draft budget is to have healthy finances so the Town can maintain long-term investment in capital and reserves, as well as maintain flexibility in volatile circumstances, like a pandemic.
The Town had to table many proposed projects during the pandemic in order to provide relief where and when it may have been needed. Still not knowing what may lie ahead, the draft budget attempts to address some of the unknowns Cochrane could face in the coming months or years as it continues to grow at a rapid rate.
As an organization, Derricott pointed out that the Town is feeling much of the same inflationary pressure as residents are – including the cost of fuel, materials and equipment, and other elements beyond their control. As costs go up for the Town and taxes holds what that actually means is less money for projects and services.
Inflation is just one reason residents cannot expect the Town to hold the line on taxes forever. Over the last five years, Cochrane has been the fastest, or one of the fastest growing towns in Alberta. With growth comes costs for infrastructure and amenities as the demand increases.
However, a tax increase has not been decided on yet. Residents can visit the Town’s Let’s Talk Cochrane website to submit their input before council’s first budget meeting Nov. 22.