The Town of Bashaw dealt with a tricky police funding situation at their Jan. 21 regular meeting, a tricky police funding situation that every municipality in Alberta is facing. The meeting was blended between in-person and Zoom to meet pandemic rules.
Town Chief Administrative Officer Theresa Fuller presented councillors with a request for decision on rescinding Bylaw #795 2020 Policing Special Tax Bylaw which the town passed last year to pay for increased police service, an expense made mandatory by the provincial government but to be paid directly by local taxpayers.
In the bylaw, Town of Bashaw councillors in effect tied the increased police costs to utility bills in an effort to spread the cost across as many residents as possible, rather than connect it to property taxes, resulting in property owners paying the bill for the entire community.
However, as Fuller explained in her presentation the bylaw had to be rescinded for 2021. Coun. Darren Pearson asked, “Why?”
Fuller responded because the provincial government stated police services are not utilities. Fuller pointed out there are quite a number of restrictions on how local governments can collect money for this increased policing.
Coun. Rob McDonald stated the province is requiring the town to pay for increased policing but not giving them a way to pay for it.
Coun. Lynn Schultz stated it looked like the provincial government doesn’t want local taxpayers to know the province is downloading this cost onto them. “And people think (town council) just raised the taxes,” said Schultz.
Fuller stated in 2020 increased police costs for Bashaw taxpayers were around $18,000, and in 2021 that will climb to about $23,000.
Coun. McDonald stated the increased policing costs tax should be placed as separate item in Town of Bashaw tax bills so taxpayers know this costs is mandatory from the provincial government, not the Town of Bashaw.
Coun. Pearson asked if it could be described as a “security tax.” Fuller responded that would be similar to a requisition and she’ll look into that.
The CAO stated the way in which the increased police costs are collected could result in some people or organizations not paying anything for it. For example, if the costs are placed on property owners, those who don’t pay property taxes won’t be contributing to the expense.
The CAO and councillors agreed the increased police costs will have to be examined in closer detail at a future meeting.
In any event, councillors unanimously passed a motion to rescind Bylaw #795 2020 Policing Special Tax Bylaw.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review