SUNDRE — The municipality plans to investigate options to consider another approach to taxation on a property that was annexed from Mountain View County.
During its teleconferenced June 8 meeting, council carried a motion directing “administration to research alternatives to taxation, including pros, cons, and financial implications.”
Before the vote, Angela and Walter Hasselmann, the owners of the property located on the east side of town on the north side of Highway 27 going up the hill, presented their case.
“We understand we cannot retain the previous county property rate,” said Walter, adding the couple has had a few conversations with owners of neighbouring properties.
“There’s quite a few people that are quite upset with the tax increase,” he said.
Recognizing the municipality must balance significant costs to operate the town, Walter said their property has no streetlights, no sidewalks, and essentially no infrastructure that was installed by the town.
Yet their mill rate, he added, has increased substantially.
In correspondence previously submitted to council prior to the discussion on the matter, the couple wrote that their monthly tax bill increased by $173.75 per month above and beyond what they were already paying.
“We’re looking at our municipal mill rate portion increase 2.89 times from what it was in 2019,” Walter said during the teleconference, adding they intend to appeal their property’s assessment.
“But what we’re kind of getting at, is right across the road from us to the south, that’s still county property — and the tax rate is roughly 50 per cent of what we are now paying. That’s going to be a real disadvantage to us if we ever go to sell our place.”
So the couple asked whether council would be willing to entertain the idea of perhaps putting the property into a different tax category, an approach he said has been employed by other municipalities to accommodate landowners in similar circumstances.
They also questioned the annexation process, which left properties on the south side of the highway in the county’s jurisdiction.
Lastly, the Hasslemanns wanted to know not only what improvements the municipality had done to their property over the past 10 years since the annexation, but also what improvements or services they could expect in the future.
Chief administrative officer Linda Nelson proceeded to outline some background information about the annexation process, which was concluded in 2010 following four years of negotiations and consultations with the affected landowners as well as Mountain View County.
“The landowners were required to sign a consent, which states that the landowner understands the proposed taxation arrangement for the annexation and gives consent to the Town of Sundre to annex the land,” said Nelson. She added that a copy of the document, which included the Hasselmanns among the signatories, was attached with council’s agenda.
Additionally, she said the municipality completed an annexation compensation review as part of the supporting documentation.
As per the agreement, she said landowners were for 10 years taxed by the Town of Sundre at the lower Mountain View County mill rate.
“This agreement ended at the end of 2019, as set out in the annexation order approved and ordered by the lieutenant governor and council on July 14, 2010,” she said.
“From 2011 to 2019, the town has collected a total of $70,123 for the residential and farmland properties in the annexation area, and $440,027 in commercial, industrial and linear taxes in the annexation area. We have paid Mountain View County a total of $314,300 out of this tax revenue for these years.”
The landowners were reminded in advance of the agreement’s expiration, and information was also provided to them on the process of appealing an assessment, she said, underlining the fact the mill rate set by council through bylaw cannot be appealed.
After confirming the Hasselmanns owned the property at the time of the annexation process, Coun. Richard Warnock asked them, “You are aware, then, that this was something that was in the future as per the annexation agreement at that time?”
Walter acknowledged they knew, but said they had no idea at the time just how much their taxes would increase.
Coun. Rob Wolfe moved to direct administration to research alternate options. Coun. Cheri Funke was the only member of council opposed to the motion, which was carried.
Mayor Terry Leslie said as a result of the successful motion, council would consider alternatives moving forward during an upcoming workshop, but that for this year, there is nothing council could do.
“There is a fall workshop, that we have as a council, that we’ll consider this item — along with many others — and that will be the result of you coming to see us this evening,” said Leslie.