MD council votes yes to 0% residential municipal tax increase

·3 min read

Typically a change of plans comes from an unforeseen event or obtaining important new information. The past year has certainly seen its fair share of altered plans, most of which were not requested.

Sometimes, however, a change of plans is a good thing, such as the MD of Pincher Creek’s decision to forgo raising residential and small commercial municipal taxes for 2021.

When creating the 2021 budget back in November, the MD initially planned for a two per cent increase. The prolonged effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, led to councillors changing their minds and altering what was laid out in the 2021 budget during the April 13 council meeting.

The budget is a partial continuation of decisions made in 2020: last year, council approved a zero per cent increase to municipal taxes. Though holding the line on municipal taxes for residential and small commercial properties, taxes for farmland are set to increase by two per cent, while non-residential taxes will grow by 3.5 per cent.

“This really reflects council’s decision to try to have that impact on our residents,” said chief administrative officer Troy MacCulloch. “And we still manage, with some of the other massaging of the numbers and controls in place, a minor surplus there to get us through what is currently a difficult year for a lot of people.”

The budget’s surplus is tallied to reach $47,634 from the municipal tax levy, which will be transferred to the tax stabilization reserve to offset the recurring non-residential tax and grant in place of taxes (GIPOT) write-offs.

Putting away money for tomorrow is an important part of the 2021 budget, said director of finances Meghan Dobie, because funding from the provincial government is set to decline significantly in the near future.

“It is anticipated that in 2022 and onwards, many grants which the MD has relied on and been successful in receiving will decrease or dissolve altogether,” she said. “Funding our reserves more aggressively today will help mitigate significant fluctuations in municipal taxes.”

The change in policing costs offloaded by the provincial government onto municipalities is also reflected in the levy. Though an increase, the MD’s farmland and non-residential tax rates, Ms Dobie added, are favourable when compared to provincial trends.

“It should be noted that when comparing tax rates to other municipal districts in Alberta, both farmland and non-residential tax rates are still well below the average,” she said.

Total property taxes also include levies called requisitions the MD is required to collect on behalf of the province, such as education taxes. Other requisitions also include community organizations like the Pincher Creek Foundation and Pincher Creek Emergency Services Commission.

All three readings of the proposed tax rate bylaw were approved during the meeting, necessitated by a short timeline imposed on council. Tax notices must be sent out April 23, with rates for provincial requisitions only recently being finalized. In particular, the designated industrial property requisition tax rate wasn’t announced until the end of March.

Specific details on requisition rates and the MD’s tax rates for 2021 can be viewed on pages 45 to 59 in the online council agenda at bit.ly/13-April-MDcouncil. Information on municipal tax rate across the province can be viewed online at bit.ly/AB_muncipaltax.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze