Jasper Municipal Council waived property tax penalties and approved lower speed limits for several streets within the townsite on Oct. 5.
During the regular meeting, a recommendation was brought forth that council approve waiving penalties on past due property taxes incurred from July 16 to Sept. 30.
For taxes that are not paid by deadline, the municipality typically assesses penalties to the property tax bill, which the owner is then required to pay.
Under the Municipal Government Act, the municipality does have the authority to cancel, reduce, refund or defer taxes and penalties.
“Council, in consideration of the economic conditions, wanted to have a discussion about the waiver of property taxes penalties for the 2021 year,” said CAO Bill Given.
The amount owing as of July 16 was about $1.8 million, which was up from 2020 and 2019.
At the time of writing the report, there was about $278,000 in property taxes left outstanding, which represent about two per cent of the total annual tax levy.
The penalties from July 16 to Sept. 30 are collectively worth about $78,000.
The municipality does budget on an annual basis for some revenue from property tax penalties.
If the municipality ended the year in a net deficit for the overall municipal budget, that deficit could be covered by the COVID relief reserve, or council could provide direction up front that these amounts could be covered directly from this reserve.
The net impact from either of those two directions ends up being the same.
If council were to waive these penalties, the municipality could end the year in a surplus and there would be no requirement to draw from the COVID relief reserve.
The committee recommendation does not explicitly say that it should be paid for from the COVID relief reserve.
CAO Given acknowledged that a waiver of predicted revenue is not the same as funding something new.
“In the end, the total results of the municipality will have to be reported to council and any deficit is reported to council and the public and would have to be made up through the use of reserves,” he said.
“And it’s also possible that the municipality doesn’t end up in a deficit at the end of the year as a result of this action and there’s no need to use any reserves.”
A motion was made by Coun. Rico Damota that council waive penalties on past due property taxes from July 16 until Sept. 30.
With all those in favour, the motion was carried.
Speed limit reduction
A recommendation was brought forth that council approve a reduction in the speed limit from 50 km/h to 30 km/h on Colin Crescent, Aspen Avenue, Aspen Crescent, Balsam Avenue and Patricia Street north of Pyramid Lake Road to Bonhomme Street.
Administration can enable this recommendation if approved by council, and there would be some minimal cost in respect to signage.
Coun. Helen Kelleher-Empey asked if the municipality required more feedback from citizens.
“We have had no letters from anybody on any of these streets requesting it,” she said.
Damota replied that council had gone through extensive discussions on speed limits and this would be beneficial to the community as a whole.
Coun. Scott Wilson then made the motion that council approve a reduction in speed limits.
“I’m really pushing this motion as a symbol of ways we can get things done,” Wilson said.
An amendment was added to the motion, stating that council direct administration to come back with a more wholesome review overall.
With all in favour, the motion was carried.
Land acknowledgment policy
Back in July, council directed administration to develop a land acknowledgement policy.
At the last committee of the whole meeting, committee reviewed the policy and made some amendments.
The intent of the land acknowledgement policy is to ensure that the Municipality of Jasper is continuing down the path of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
The policy sets out an approach for the municipality to regularly and formally make land acknowledgement.
Coun. Jenna McGrath moved that council adopt the draft land acknowledgment policy for use by the Municipality of Jasper and council refer the matter of regular ongoing reconciliation efforts to the 2022 strategic planning session.
With no debate and with all in favour, the motion was carried.
Early this year, council was approached with a request to expand the community garden on Connaught Drive or to examine an opportunity for alternate sites.
The plan calls for expanding the garden towards the east in a way that will not interfere with any of the utilities currently in that location.
This would enable for the 2022 season.
Coun. Kelleher-Empey made the motion that council approve the expansion of the community garden as presented to allow for additional garden plots and a shed.
With no debate and with all in favour, that motion was carried.
Ali Howat, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh