SUNDRE — Residents and business owners struggling to make financial ends meet as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will at the very least not have to factor in any local tax increases this year.
Sundre’s council carried during the Monday, May 4 teleconferenced meeting a motion approving administration’s recommendation to freeze residential and non-residential mill rates at 2019 levels.
In December, council had passed a motion re-affirming the adoption of the 2019-2022 four-year operating budget and 10-year capital plan, with total expenditures of about $8.8 million and total operational revenues of almost $5.2 million. That leaves nearly $3.7 million to be raised through taxation, the Fortis Franchise Fee, Municipal Sustainability Initiative operating grant as well as restricted surplus accounts where identified.
Included in the previously approved budget is an estimated cost increase of 1.76 per cent over the 2019 budget. In addition, the 2019 Bank of Canada inflation percentage closed at 2.3 per cent, reads background information outlined in council’s agenda package.
“Based on an increased assessment value due to new construction, the Town of Sundre is able to maintain a mill rate of 8.388 for residential and 12.378 for non-residential. For each 0.5 per cent change to the proposed rate, there would be a compounding $17,769 budget effect projected for the year,” the document reads.
Chris Albert, director of corporate services, said during the teleconference that administration was pleased to present a tax bylaw that maintained the rates at 2019 levels.
Assessment values, Albert informed council, increased by approximately $9 million, the majority of which was in non-residential properties.
Additionally, as a result of the pandemic, the provincial government similarly maintained the mandatory requisition for the Alberta School Foundation Fund at the 2019 level, he said.
However, he added that was offset by the Mountain View Seniors’ Housing (MVSH) requisition, which increased substantially by almost 50 per cent from about $94,000 in 2019 to roughly $145,000 this year.
What this means, he elaborated, is that for a home assessed at $300,000 in 2019 as well as in 2020, municipal taxes owed would remain the same at $2,516, the education portion would be reduced from $795 to $750, while the MVSH requisition would increase from $76 to $114, he said.
“In 2019, that $300,000 house would pay $3,387 in total property taxes,” he said.
“For 2020, they would pay $3,380.”
That of course is pending on an assessment value that remained the same, he said, adding administration requested council approve all three readings of the bylaw.
Coun. Paul Isaac moved first reading, which carried unopposed. Coun. Rob Wolfe moved the second reading, opening the door to discussion.
“I think it’s excellent that we are at a zero per cent increase. At this particular time with the economy and life in general, we need to do this and really take care of our residents,” said Isaac.
Coun. Richard Warnock agreed, and said the timing was important. Seeking clarification, the councillor asked, “With the zero per cent increase, it is my understanding, if I am correct, that there is no reduction in services?”
Chief administrative officer Linda Nelson confirmed that was “absolutely correct.”
Wolfe said freezing taxes is “certainly a good news item,” but wanted to know how the new RCMP funding model cost would be accounted for.
“I know we’re not going to get an invoice for the policing cost until January of 2021,” said Wolfe. “But does this recommendation take into account the payment that we’re going to have to make to the province from April to December?”
Albert said it had not been, but added administration believes “based on historical information, we should be able to absorb that within the existing budget for that first payment, and then we can take it into account going forward.”
Council unamiously carried the second and subsequently final readings.