Council for the RM of Lumsden met for their regular meeting over Zoom on August 19. Councillor Cody Jordison chaired the short meeting, which was over in under an hour and a half.
Council discussed several tax abatement requests on the agenda. For one of the requests, Councillor John Langford noted the appeal said that SAMA had made a mistake in assessing the property and that SAMA didn’t want to acknowledge the mistake in writing. Councillor Langford said there had been numerous errors on behalf of SAMA, which was why there had been so many successful appeals. He also noted that while the appellant should have appealed within the required timeline, other people in the same boat would be appealing their assessment next year.
CAO Monica Merkosky said the appeal could’ve easily been appealed had he made an effort to; however, because the appellant had not done that, she said it was unfortunate because the administration would’ve helped him with the paperwork for the appeal. Merkosky noted that the ratepayer says SAMA should have assessed the garage as agricultural but assessed it as residential in error.
Councillor Jordison said that because RM had set the budget, it was now too late. Merkosky reiterated that people get 60 days to appeal their assessments in a re-evaluation year, noting that the appellant acted only after receiving his tax notice.
Councillor John said that because it was a mistake from SAMA, he didn’t feel comfortable condoning the constant stream of errors that keep coming forward from SAMA.
Councillor Jordison said he disagreed with Councillor Langford because of the extension of time given to people to appeal their notices, and the RM had already set their tax roll.
CAO Merkosky noted that SAMA goes through thousands of properties in a re-evaluation year and wouldn’t look into windows to determine if it was a tractor or an RV inside. She noted that people have a responsibility to open their mail.
Councillor Garbutt said that if the council made an exception for this appeal, it would set a precedent for an assessment issue instead of a taxation issue. Councillor Schlosser agreed with Garbutt, however noting she felt for the appellant.
Councillor John made a motion to approve the appeal and reduce the taxation by the set amount. Council defeated the motion 3 to 1. There were no reports from the Administration as CAO Merkosky was technically on vacation at the meeting.
The CAO forwarded Brandt Industries the RM’s new procurement and fleet management policy which they were pleased with.
The Town of Lumsden’s Community Coordinator, Chris Exner, requested support towards the Town of Lumsden’s annual Scarecrow Festival. The proposed request was that the RM would sponsor the hayrides, which would cost approximately $1,000. However, Mr. Exner understood that the RM had not budgeted for it. Councillors Jordison and Garbutt both said while they liked the idea, the finance committee should look at it first. Council made a motion to table the matter.
Councillor Glenda Schlosser noted that the Deer Valley Hamlet Board would be bringing an animal bylaw forward to the council. CAO Merkosky said she is providing the board with some information on the bylaw.
CAO Merkosky brought some good news to the RM Council. There was a one-time doubling of the gas tax program totalling $116,000 to the RM of Lumsden. CAO Merkosky said it could be referred to the finance committee to determine which reserve to allocate the money to when the payment arrives.
Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times