County of Stettler approves audited 2023 financial statement

Stettler county council approved their 2023 financial statements after a presentation by the official auditor. The presentation was made at the April 9 regular meeting of council.

Gitzel & Co. representative Peggy Weinzierl presented the results of the audit which it was noted was conducted under accepted accounting practices and with the help of municipal staff.

Near the beginning of her presentation the auditor predicted there wouldn’t be much in the audit that came as a surprise to councillors.

The auditor stated the County of Stettler’s cash was up a bit in 2023 and surplus was up a bit too then added that taxes receivable, or unpaid taxes, were down considerably. She explained that was partly due to writing off uncollectable debts.

As she gave her report councillors were invited to ask questions but only a few were asked. One of the questions that generated the most discussion came from Coun. James Nibourg when the auditor discussed taxes receivable.

Nibourg asked the auditor about dividing taxes receivable into unpaid taxes from the oil and gas industry from everybody else.

The auditor acknowledged the County of Stettler has very little unpaid tax that isn’t oil and gas industry.

Nibourg continued that he feels the County of Stettler does a good job of collecting its taxes but if a few large oil and gas taxpayers don’t pay their bill it skews the results.

The County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy stated that she also feels the municipality does a good job of collecting taxes but that, due to certain Government of Alberta rules, there is only so far a municipality can go to collect such unpaid debts.

The auditor pointed out the importance of oil and gas property taxes to the County of Stettler. “Linear taxes is still a big part of your revenue,” said Weinzierl. Readers may be aware “linear” generally refers to oil and gas pipelines plus associated structures.

Reeve Larry Clarke observed that unpaid oil and gas industry property taxes isn’t a problem unique to the County of Stettler; a number of other municipalities also face this issue.

After presenting the financial statements councillors elected to move into closed session to discuss private matters with the auditor. After about 20 minutes, councillors left closed session and re-opened the public meeting.

The councillors had no problems with the 2023 audited financial statements, as after re-opening the public meeting they immediately and unanimously approved the documents as they were presented by the auditor.

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review