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Steep tax increase expected for Cold Lake in 2018

Cold Lake residents will be seeing a bit more than just an increase in their municipal taxes for 2018. City council approved a near five per cent increase in municipal taxes in their 2018 operating budget.
The City of Cold Lake has passed their 2018 budgets with a tax increase of over four per cent expected.
The City of Cold Lake has decided not to increase taxes this year.

Cold Lake residents will be seeing a bit more than just an increase in their municipal taxes for 2018.

City council approved a near five per cent increase in municipal taxes in their 2018 operating budget.

Mayor Craig Copeland said residents would be feeling the pinch in other places too, including recreation, which will see an average five per cent increase in user fees.

What it all boils down to, Copeland noted, is ID 349.

A $51-million operating budget will include a 4.8 per cent tax increase for residents of Cold Lake, along with an average five per cent increase in user fees.

“The ice user fees, baseball, soccer, all of these different recreational sports are going to have their user fees reviewed,” Copeland explained.

In the new year, updated policies on these programs will be before council for discussion.

“I think it's fair to say that we're looking at five to 10 per cent increase, but we're also looking at readjusting some fees on non-peak hours. We're really going to dive into it and look at it differently,” he continued.

For example, council passed an increase in marina fees for the upcoming year during their regular council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 12. Boat enthusiasts will be seeing an increase of five per cent in the upcoming year.

Council will also be putting free transit and the future of the north arena will be on the drawing board for 2018.

“A lot of user groups didn't get what they wanted,” said Copeland.

The north arena will essentially shutdown as of March, until council can decide what to do with the facility.

“There will be no money going towards the ice plant. The idea is there will be no ice in the arena until fall. It's going to be another discussion item and think about what we want to do with it, but we weren't prepared to make an immediate decision right now,” added Copeland.

The police dog service, Meals On Wheels program, sponsoring the Cold Lake Airshow, and continued supports of community groups such as the Lakeland Humane Society, Cold Lake Library, Seniors Society, Museum Society, and Cold Lake Ambulance, were included in the budget.

Opening of the Energy Centre phase three, enhanced road maintenance and asphalt repairs, continuation of the sidewalk repair initiative, and a tourism advertising campaign were also included, along with a transfer of $9.2-million to the capital budget.

“This is the first year I can remember in a long time that a lot of groups aren't getting any money,” Copeland expressed.

About 31 per cent of the operating budget is funded by taxation revenue from the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR), to a tune of $16-million. Over $20.5-million will be funded through user fees and grants, and about $36-million from tax revenue.

The city is expecting $645,800 from the MD of Bonnyville through their intermunicipal funding agreement, which will ultimately be replaced by Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks (ICF).

Council also approved an increase over two years to sewer fees. They will be rising from 50 per cent of the water bill to 70 per cent.

The 2018 capital budget was approved at $11.5-million.

“This is where missing the $10-million is going to hurt the most,” Copeland said. “You look at the list of projects, they can almost be described as one-offs, but there's no huge infrastructure build-outs, there's no arenas or anything like that being built.”

In the upcoming year, council has allocated almost $2.5-million towards environmental/utility infrastructure, almost $2.15-million to roadway infrastructure improvements, and about $1.4-million to fleet and equipment infrastructure.

Upgrades to the Cold Lake RCMP Detachment and construction of a bike park were funded to 50 per cent of the project costs. Council expects to find other sources of funding to complete the remaining 50 per cent of the projects.

Over $1-million in recreation infrastructure was included, with facilities and airport infrastructure each being funded to a tune of $2-million.

The capital budget is being funded mostly by the ID 349 agreement, which is expected to come in at about $8-million.

However, council won't know for sure how much funding they will receive until later in 2018.

“Losing the $10-million impacts the city in a huge way,” stated Copeland. “There are big projects that are now being put on hold thanks to the government's change here. This is where I think the loss of the money is really going to impact the City of Cold Lake residents.”

Other funding sources include $1.6-million in restricted surplus, and $1.8-million in grant funding.