Vermilion has approved its 2020 budget, without a proposed tax increase.

Budgeted expenses for the town are just over $14.2 Million, with money for capital acquisitions at $1.6 million. In response to business downturns, decreased property values and COVID-19’s impact on the area, the Council asked the administration to find a way to reduce a proposed 1.9% tax increase.

Mayor Caroline McAuley says Council re-worked City wages and operational costs to continue going forward without the tax increase.

“Less contracting out was one of the changes we made. We are running next year with one less councillor on council, so we were able to look at those savings, and put them back in supporting the zero per cent increase.”

Other difficulties the town says they had to overcome was a 50% reduction in Alberta grants for provincial infrastructure, a 15% decrease in Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding and a provincial levy for rural policing, which they say will cost the province $250,000 in 2020, and more in future years.

After re-tooling the budget, several infrastructure projects will go ahead as planned, including road upgrades, contributions to the Lakeland College Aquatic Centre improvement project and continued work on broadband networks for under-connected areas of town. Completion of the Wastewater Treatment Plant and the aerial platform unit for the Fire Department, both started in 2019, will also be completed this year.

Utility fees were also increased by 3% in January, which the town says will cover anticipated increased operating expenses of the wastewater treatment plant, and for continued efforts for environmentally friendly waste management.

McAuley adds that Budget 2021 will present difficulties as well, and that by that time they may have to look at either a tax increase or further cutting operations costs.

“We will have to see what will come forward as a result of us moving open with COVID. What it’s going to mean for our recreation facilities, some of the other services we’re going to deliver come the fall. So I think this is setting it out there, this is the target we’re aiming for, that zero per cent, but this is going to be, certainly, a very fluid year.”

The budget was approved in on May 5th, 2020.