Kneehill County cancels gas co-op taxes

Kneehill County, in a move that one councillor referred to as a “best practice,” cancelled tax bills for two gas co-ops that operate within the municipality's boundaries. The decision was made at the Oct. 25 regular meeting of council.

Marika von Mirbach, acting manager of financial operations, presented a request to council to waive tax bills for two gas co-ops that work within Kneehill’s boundaries.

“In June 2016, council approved Policy #16-15 which gave direction to cancel taxes to the gas co-ops operating within the county,” stated von Mirbach’s memo to council.

“There are two gas co-ops that this policy applies to, and which have historically had their taxes cancelled by council.

“The taxes for Harvest Hills Gas Co-Op Ltd. total $2,604.70 on eight tax roles. The taxes for Crossroads Gas Co-Op total $1,000.70 on four tax roles.

“Included within the above amounts is $579.60 in requisitions which are required to be forwarded to the applicable parties regardless of whether taxes are cancelled. This can be accommodated within the approved operating budget allocation for cancelled taxes,” stated the memo.

Von Mirbach stated the county policy in question recommends this item be brought before council annually and involves 12 tax rolls between the two organizations.

Reeve Jerry Wittstock acknowledged the dollar value of this request was traditionally not very high.

“I’m sure we’re not into the hundreds of millions of dollars here,” said Wittstock.

Coun. Ken King clarified that certain requisitions collected on these property taxes, such as education tax, still have to be forwarded to the provincial government. Von Mirbach confirmed that was correct.

Coun. Laura Lee Machell-Cunningham wanted to clarify that there was no method for the county to use to reclaim the tax revenue in question.

Reeve Wittstock interjected to note the tax rolls listed are gas lines that run throughout Kneehill County and they belong to the two non-profit gas co-ops listed.

Wittstock stated the gas co-ops serve the residents of the county and while Kneehill could probably send the two gas co-ops a property tax bill, it’s possible those costs would just be passed along to Kneehill residents.

Wittstock further clarified that he believed the tax rolls in question were actually metering sites which don’t take up much space.

“It’s just a courtesy we extended years and years and years ago,” added Wittstock.

Coun. Faye McGhee stated she believed cancelling the gas co-op’s property taxes should be considered a “best practice.”

Included in the council agenda was a copy of the applicable policy passed in 2014 and amended in 2016 recommending that Kneehill County waive tax bills for the two gas co-ops, with the policy signed by then-Reeve Bob Long and then-Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Al Hoggan.

Councillors unanimously agreed to the cancellation of 2022 taxes in the total amount of $3,605.40 for the gas co-op owned properties as per council policy #16-15.

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