The Town of Strathmore hosted another “Getting Coffee with Council” session, Nov. 7 in council chambers, with the intent to answer public inquiry about the local budget and upcoming deliberations.
This type of session is organized on several occasions throughout a given year in order for residents to meet with their local council in an informal setting to discuss ideas, projects and concerns, and to have questions answered.
Immediately at the start of the meeting, the topic of zero per cent tax increases was brought up to be addressed.
“Really what that does is kick the can down the road and at some point, you have to make up for shortfall, because inflation is never below zero,” explained Mayor Pat Fule. “If you do zero per cent increases, we have been caught in the past where we have had to catch up and have had to increase taxes because of (that prior) zero per cent increase.”
Fule referenced back in 2021 during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the town made an effort to create a budget with a zero per cent increase in order to help those who had lost jobs and income.
He spoke about the difficulty associated with accomplishing a feat like that due to rising costs everywhere else, which would effectively put the Town behind the curve of inflation.
“Inflation is a big factor as far as our tax increases (are concerned). The year over year inflation rate for September in the Calgary region was 4.4 per cent. The town right now has proposed an increase of 5.05 per cent in the 2024 budget,” said Fule. “Unfortunately, the cost to provide services that residents expect has gone up, and that is including things like natural gas heating, electricity, the pool … and the town, sometimes we have to raise revenues in order to pay those inflated costs.”
In comparison to last year, he added, the inflation rate for September in the Calgary region was 6.8 per cent and the town increased taxes by 4.5 per cent.
Fule also emphasized that nothing regarding the town’s budget has yet been finalized and many more budget discussions are yet to be had before final increases are decided upon.
In comparison to several other municipalities, Fule said the Town of Strathmore is actually looking at increasing tax rates decidedly lower than most, without being required to dip into local reserves.
More information regarding the discussion, as well as the rest of the Coffee with Council meeting minutes are publicly available to view through the Town’s YouTube channel.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times