By Trevor Busch
With town council mandating an overall two per cent increase to property tax rates in 2019, the municipality has now finalized its mill rates.
Passed unanimously at a special meeting of council on April 29, general municipal tax rates have been set at 7.7086 mills (residential and farmland) and 12.0831 mills (non-residential).
Total operating expenses and transfers come in at $24,525,459, based on operating revenues and transfers of $15,261,152, with a balance of $9,264,307 to be raised through general municipal taxes. Capital expenditures on the year will ring in at $20,852,959, to be made up through a transfer of $8,660,218 from capital reserves, $12,142,741 in grants from other governments, and $50,000 in other revenues.
The total assessed value of all taxable property in the municipality has been established at $1,025,332,020.
Estimated school requisition tax rates come in at 2.6398 (residential and farmland) and 3.9199 (non-residential). The Seniors Foundation requisition is estimated at 0.1002 mills, with a mill rate of 0.0786 for the DIP requisition.
“Up until now, we haven’t seen anything from the government pertaining to school requisitions, so we decided to make an estimate there,” said finance director John Orwa. “At the same time, the only additional thing that is out there before we look at the bylaw is the seniors, and again, we don’t have any control there.”
The proposed school tax rates are calculated based on the overall education requisition required by the province. This requisition is broken into residential and farmland, non-residential, and machinery and equipment for both the public and separate school systems. Requisitions for the Alberta School Foundation Fund and Holy Spirit RCSCRD #4 total an estimated $2,822,438. The estimate for the Senior Foundation totals $102,507, while the DIP requisition comes in at $1,292.
“As we have not received a 2019 requisition, administration along with our assessor have estimated the school requisitions based on the Education Property Tax forecast and equalized assessments resulting in a 5.4 per cent increase for residential and a 6.59 per cent increase in non-residential mill rates for schools,” stated administration in their background to the decision.
The senior tax rate is calculated based on the proportion that the town’s equalized assessment bears to the total of the equalized assessments of the four participating municipalities and the requisition required by Taber and District Housing.
A penalty of six per cent will be added on all current taxes remaining unpaid (including local improvement taxes) after June 30, followed by an additional six per cent after July 31.
Complaints about assessment must be lodged within 60 days of the notice of assessment date.
To calculate property tax, multiply the assessed value of the property by the mill rate and then divide by 1,000. For example, a property with an assessed value of $50,000 located in a municipality with a mill rate of 20 mills would have a property tax of $1,000 per year.
During the April 23 regular meeting, town council had passed Property Tax Bylaw 8-2019, but this was later repealed on April 29 due to an error in the numbers which had occurred when council chose to fully fund an operating shortfall with a transfer from reserves.
“Your administration was caught off guard at the last meeting with the option that council chose when setting the budget,” said CAO Cory Armfelt on April 29. “We had crafted (tax) Bylaw 8-2019 with the expectation that we were actually going to be lower in the revenue required to collect from the citizens of Taber. Ultimately what happened is council decided to move this $125,285 from reserves into the budget, so essentially what we would be doing is over-taxing by $125,285 if we had gone by the bylaw as it read.”
There was only limited public debate of the tax rates by town council at the April 23 or April 29 meetings, which may be due to the fact that council chose to conduct its preliminary tax discussions in closed session in early 2019.
At their March 25 meeting, council had discussed “preliminary municipal tax rates” in camera, followed by closed session discussion of the “tax model and comparisons” at their April 8 meeting. In both cases, council cited Sec. 24(1) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP) as justification for taking the items in camera to “prevent disclosure of proposed plans, policies or projects of the public body which could reasonably be expected to result in disclosure of a pending policy or budgetary decision.”
Under guidelines and best practices laid down by Alberta Municipal Affairs, as an elected body, municipal councils should avoid conducting business in camera, including discussion of difficult topics such as budget deliberations, capital expenditures, tax recoveries, salary ranges or hiring of additional municipal staff, bylaw amendments, subdivision proposals, and “any contentious issues such as sensitive local issues.”
In 2018, the residential mill rate was 7.5574 mills, followed by a non-residential mill rate of 11.8458 (municipal only).