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Sundre council approves tax deferral program

Option to delay payment without penalty
Town office
File photo

SUNDRE — Residents and business owners who are so inclined have the option to apply for the municipality’s tax deferral program.

Council discussed during the Monday, May 4 teleconferenced meeting how to proceed after being presented with several options to choose from.

Chris Albert, director of corporate services, informed council that the provincial government had, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, issued a mandate requiring that at minimum, municipalities must defer the education portion on non-residential property taxes.

After participating in a webinar hosted by the Alberta government to obtain a better understanding of the possible courses of action, Albert said administration compiled potential solutions for council to consider.

To be clear, he said the deferral was not to be confused with an outright waiver or forgiveness of payment, just any penalties that would otherwise normally be applied.

“This is only a delay of payment — taxes must still be paid,” he said.

A deferral, as explained as part of the background information included in council’s agenda package, is the delay in the normal enforcement for non-payment by a specified date. The municipality’s normal enforcement is to apply penalties on an outstanding amount as of the dates of July 1, Oct. 1 and Jan. 1.

Penalties for late payments in October and July are for the current year of taxes that remain outstanding and usually set at a rate of six per cent. The penalty past the January deadline, which includes all outstanding balances including amounts owed from previous years, is usually 12 per cent, he said.   

“We’re going to encourage all residents, all non-residential property owners, to make payments, even if it’s partial payments. I think it’s important that we communicate this is how we pay our bills and keep our lights on. Without those cash inflows, it becomes more difficult for us to pay our bills.”

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Outlining the options, Albert said council could choose to offer the deferral only to non-residential property owners, or also include residential property owners. The options also included whether to defer only the education portion, or the entire tax bill due as of July 1. The other options were similar, except that the deferral would be extended to the Oct. 1 deadline, he said.  

“Administration is recommending waiving the July 1 penalties on all outstanding amounts for all properties. The reason that we’re making this recommendation is we think it is the most beneficial,” he said.

“The consequences, as far as we can tell, would not be significantly greater than the other options, and it provides the most benefits to the most people who would potentially be hit.”

Coun. Todd Dalke moved administration’s recommended action to waive the July 1 penalties on the full amount outstanding for all properties.

All of his colleagues supported the motion, although Coun. Charlene Preston said she “would have liked to push this a little bit further” to include Oct. 1 as well.

“At this point, we don’t know what’s going to happen with COVID, and the second round of COVID,” said Preston, who reaffirmed her support for the motion.

Albert said future extensions could still be approved at a later date at council’s discretion.

Speaking in favour of the motion, Coun. Rob Wolfe said, “We’re going above and beyond what the government’s recommending.”

Wolfe said he was pleased that utility payment deferrals had also been offered.

Mayor Terry Leslie hailed the motion as a “measured response in excess of what the province has asked municipalities to do, and it’s not just for non-residential property owners — it’s for all.”

Dalke’s motion carried without opposition.

Later during the meeting, Coun. Richard Warnock sought clarification, asking administration how many applications had been received for both deferral programs.

Chief administrative officer Linda Nelson said five had applied for utilities, while two applied for the tax deferral.