Town of Stettler property owners will likely see no tax increase after council adopted their 2022 operating budget at the May 17 regular meeting of council.
Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Greg Switenky presented the draft 2022 operating budget and began his presentation by stating councillors and staff spent a lot of time working on the budget at a recent workshop.
He stated the operating budget as presented would result in a zero per cent increase to residential taxes and a zero per cent increase to non-residential taxes, and pointed out the earlier interim budget avoided increases to utility rates as well.
Readers should note, however, that municipal mill rates are only one factor on a property tax bill; property values can also affect the tax bill.
The CAO noted the budget also sets aside about $699,000 for capital projects, which is virtually the same as the earlier interim budget.
Switenky stated looking ahead the next couple of years may be a challenge for the Town of Stettler but staying at zero per cent increase was the right decision for 2022.
He also explained that “zero” means the town will collect the same amount of property tax revenue from owners as 2021, and some new properties may be taxed for the first time.
Councillors also heard that provincial requisitions may affect property owner’s tax bill, but those are set by the provincial government and the town has no control over them.
Switenky stated it appears the school requisition will be increasing for both residential and non-residential properties.
Mayor Sean Nolls thanked his peers and town staff for the great work they did on developing a “no increase” budget, but warned that in 2023 councillors will probably have to look at increasing taxes due to things like changes to provincial grant programs and increasing police costs.
Councillors unanimously approved the 2022 operating budget as presented.
Later in the meeting councillors passed all readings of two bylaws to bring them into effect.
During discussion Switenky noted he wanted to point out that the town’s tax penalty bylaw was reverting back to the schedule used prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stettler town council, during the pandemic, allowed property owners to pay their taxes later in the year without penalty to alleviate some of the financial burdens caused by COVID restrictions.
However the CAO noted this new bylaw returned the tax payment schedule back to June 30, July 29 and Dec. 31, noting penalties applied to different extents depending on how much money was owed.
Coun. Wayne Smith stated he wanted to ensure the town publicized this change very well so all property owners know the town is going back to the old schedule.
Dirt bike track
Councillors heard a presentation from Stettler Dirt Riders Association (SDRA) spokesperson Laurence Fisher, describing the club’s efforts to upgrade the 15-year-old dirt bike track.
“Our resources are limited and we are looking for support in regards to upgrades and also annual maintenance,” stated Fisher in his letter to council.
“We have the opportunity to join the CAMS (Central Alberta Motocross Series) which is a series of points races at Rimbey, Rocky Mountain House, Drumheller and Alix.
“These events bring dozens of families and individual racers to their towns for two or three days, bolstering the local economy.
“Our track would require some dirt work upgrades and a set of starting gates in order to participate. We have contacted local construction companies to see how they might be able to help us with the dirt work and we have a fund-raising event scheduled for May 13 to fund the purchase of the starting gates.
“We are looking to upgrade approximately 575 meters of vehicle roadway. The town has a stockpile nearby and we would ask that the town load the material into one of their gravel trucks and place the material while the county grades it into place.
“We are asking that the town provide mowing of the parking and staging areas one or two times per year,” added Fisher.
During his presentation he noted families are currently mowing the substantial grounds and are having trouble keeping up with the workload.
CAO Switenky noted the property in question belongs to the town and is leased out to clubs; it’s a former landfill site.
Mayor Nolls let Fisher know the council will discuss the request at an upcoming committee meeting.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review