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As we gather virtually this Christmas season, it is important to reflect back on the challenges we have been through and then turn our attention to the hope and promise of a bright 2021.
2020 started and ended with the challenge of the pandemic. As we isolate yet again over the holiday season, let’s remember the simple message that has been said time and again, but still holds true: Stay safe and stay kind! We know this has been the toughest time of many of our lives, but we also know this has the potential to bring out the best in us all. Thank you for being so resilient and thinking of others during these tough times.
This year presented us all some tough financial challenges, from underemployment or unemployment at the personal level, to declining income resources at the municipal level. During this past year, the Province was required to face the challenge of many oil and gas companies falling on tough times, and examined reducing their municipal tax load as a result. This would have had the effect of moving much of the municipal tax load to residential, farmer and other taxpayers.
Thanks to the advocacy of many residents, local businesses and our urban municipalities (Tofield, Ryley, Holden and Viking) in Beaver County, this helped change the direction of the Province, which found some other solutions to the tax issue for oil and gas companies.
At the County, we have reduced operating expenses in all County functions, in order to accommodate increased costs from outside bodies, such as the Provincial increase to local policing costs which alone would have meant close to a 1% municipal tax increase. Due to some shrewd long term planning, we have accommodated all the new costs with no increase in taxpayer levy from municipal operations and for 2021, we have largely maintained our road program. In future years, this will likely change, but for next year, good news so far!
On behalf of County Council, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Please plan to connect virtually with those you love, and please take the opportunity to help those in need. If we take care of each other, we will make it through. And before you know it, we can spend time together again. Until then stay safe, stay kind and stay well.
Jim Kallal, Reeve