By Cole Parkinson
After using in-house assessors in the past, the Municipal District of Taber is shifting towards a consultant firm.
On Dec. 4, 2020, the M.D. of Taber issued a Request for Proposal for municipal assessment services and received a proposal by Benchmark Assessment Consultants Inc. During council’s regular meeting Jan. 12, the proposal was brought forward for council review.
Proposed fees for the five years of 2021-25 include a rate of $18 per parcel for the 2021 tax year and an increase of two per cent each year after. Within the M.D., there are 9,811 —which equals to $176,000 in a truncated tax season due to the switch over.
The 2021 tax year from Jan. 1, 2021 to Feb. 28 equals $29,000, while March 1, 2021 to Feb. 28, 2022 will be $176,000. The 2022 tax year is $180,000, the 2023 tax year is $184,000, the 2024 tax year is $188,000 and the 2025 tax year is $192,000. Additional fees will be charged at a rate of $200 per hour for services requested by the municipality.
“The need for this came up as a result of recent staff changes and turnover. It was an opportunity for us to submit an RFP through the procurement process and see what we got in return. This was the one proposal we received and the proposed fees you see before you are what is included in the proposed agreement,” stated CAO Arlos Crofts.
With a five-year contract proposed, a question was posed to administration if they were comfortable with that length.
“Actually, I am quite happy to have the stability for five years in having that service provided. My preference actually would have been for it to be longer, in this particular and specific service,” responded Crofts.
Another inquiry to administration was around if Crofts had worked with Benchmark Assessment Consultants in his previous roles before taking on the CAO position with the M.D.
“I have worked with this group when I was with the Town of Redcliff. They seem to be involved with various different municipalities in southern Alberta. I think there are three municipalities not utilizing this company to provide assessment services. One being Cypress County, the others being Lethbridge County and the M.D. of Taber.”
While administration expressed confidence in a five-year contract, council still questioned if that would be suitable. They posed a question around if there would be a chance to terminate the contract if they felt the need to do so.
“Our hope and expectation is we happily carry out the five-year service agreement,” stated Crofts.
“The termination clause includes the reason of non-performance or a breach of the agreement. Those would be reasons for termination. However, there isn’t a no-cause termination included in the agreement,” added Bryan Badura, director of corporate services.
In terms of the financial commitment in pivoting from in-house assessment to a consultant, administration explained costs would be similar.
Looking at previous years, administration expects large savings when compared to previous years when there was no ongoing pandemic.
“In direct comparison to 2020, I think we are looking at a savings of about $10,000 or so. If you compare it to the previous years, the savings are really quite significant,” said Crofts.
One potential issue highlighted by council was around the availability of consultant assessors versus in-house employees. They asked administration if they would still receive regular reports to get a sense of where they were on the assessment side.
“What I hope — some (reports) would come through administration, definitely, some of their reports for the purposes of budgeting and annual budgeting. But I would hope, and my intention would be to have, at the very least, annual presentations at a council meeting with regard to their annual work plans and who they are, for lack of a better word, a continual introduction to the community and be a presence in the community. I would like to have that presence on a fairly regular basis,” answered Crofts, who also stated he would want them in attendance at the M.D.’s annual general meeting.
A motion to approve entering into an assessment services contract with Benchmark Assessment Consultants Inc. for a term of five years was carried unanimously.