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County is in a 'strong financial position currently'

Position of strength will likely be challenged in the future: corporate services director

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY – County council has been given an update on the municipality’s financial situation. The review came during the recently regularly scheduled council meeting, held in council chambers and by teleconference.

The budget 2021 environmental scan, budget 2021 split mill rate, and budget 2021 assessment and mill rates impact report was prepared and presented by the corporate services department.

“Mountain View County is in a strong financial position currently,” said Rob Beaupertuis, director of corporate services. “It will have about $50 million in cash and investments at the beginning of 2021. This is coupled with a low debt position. This position of strength is more than likely going to be challenged in the future.”

The province is expected to change the assessment model for linear oil and gas properties, he said.

“As well, low levels of oil and gas industry investments and commodity prices imply that MVC’s tax assessment base is headed for decline,” he said.

“Also, the entire Alberta economy has been hit in 2020 with COVID-19. Most economists expect the economy to contract in 2020 by greater than five per cent and Alberta is expected to have the slowest recovery of any province.”

The budget 2021 environmental scan includes comments on long-range plans, county mill rates, assessment, and staffing levels.

Regarding long-range, the report states in part, that, “The long-term plans will be updated once the province releases the new assessment. Based on current plans and forecasts the county will have to review its service levels, policies, and taxation to help ensure sustainability.

“On a positive note, our current financial position allows the county time to implement various strategies.”

The county long-range infrastructure plan states, in part, that the current infrastructure supports the current needs of the county.

“There is no major developments currently proposed that will change that statement. As well, the cyclical oil and gas industry is not expected to see a boom period like 2010-2014. The current year will see an estimated 10 wells drilled compared with the hundreds that were drilled during the earlier boom period.”

There is currently $37.35 million in road paving enhancement planned in the next 10 years, the report states.

Regarding assessment, the report states in part that, “There is not expected to be any significant real growth in property values in 2020. Residential assessment is expected to be relatively stable with reports of high volumes of sales. Commercial and linear assessment could see large downward movements.

“Long-term the concern is that assessment will not meet inflationary cost increases and could have already seen its highest levels.”

Regarding staffing, the report states in part that, “With the reduction in staffing levels already made, management does not believe significant further reductions in staffing can be made without having an impact on service levels.”

Since 2019, seven positions have been eliminated or left vacant along with a reorganization of duties,” the report states. “The annualized savings is estimated at $750,000. This amounts to about a seven per cent reduction in full-time staff. As well in 2020 no step increases were made in the salary grids. This is another $100,000 in savings.”

Reeve Bruce Beattie called the report “very good background information.”

Council received the report as information. The complete report is available for viewing on the county’s website.

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