The Mountaineer - Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada
© 2024 The Mountaineer Publishing Company Limited.

County council approves 2024 tax rate bylaw

By Diane Spoor
Staff Reporter

During the regular council meeting on Tuesday, May 14, Clearwater County council approved the tax rate bylaw. All assessment classes in Clearwater County will see a one per cent municipal tax rate increase.

Financial Services manager Rhonda Serhan took time before council debated second and third readings to provide further explanation about the tax rate and what else is included in the tax collection.

“Property taxes are used to provide funding for a portion of public school programing, seniors housing and local services. The province provides the amount to requisition Clearwater County ratepayers for their portion of the public school funding. The local seniors housing board provides the amount that is required by Clearwater County ratepayers to subsidize the operation of the seniors housing above Alberta Health Services funding and fees paid from the residents. Both of these amounts are subsequently forwarded to the external organizations quarterly by Clearwater County. The Designated Industrial Property (DIP) requisition is only collected from DIP properties and forwarded to the provincial assessment body annually,” said Serhan.

Serhan went on to explain, “The municipal tax requisition is the funding that is used for local services such as regional fire services, local road and bridge maintenance and reconstruction, recreation services, library and culture services, water, wastewater and solid waste services, community hall and cemetery support, agriculture service education and workshop programs, mowing services, planning and development services, other emergency and enforcement services and all of the support services required to support council and the staff, equipment and facilities used by the more boots-on-the-ground type services as well all of the legislative, council and provincial reporting that is required.”

“The tax rate bylaw is not the time to decide the burden on the taxpayers. The time to decide that is when projects are added to the work plans for the municipality,” Serhan added.

“This tax rate bylaw is still not generating enough revenue to fund all of the projects that are in the 10-year capital plan plus the operational programs and services that are provided to the residents and non-residents,” she explained.

Deputy reeve Genny Mehlhaff explained why she would be voting against the increase in tax rate.

“If you look at inflation plus the increase in properties, that was just over five per cent ... we needed two per cent to make the budget balance when we were looking at the budget in December.”

Serhan responded that while that was true that number only takes into account the 2024 budget “and it does nothing to fund projects in the future or the future cost of services.”

Councillor Daryl Lougheed supported the one per cent increase.

“We are not just balancing the 2024 budget but looking at what is coming before us. Wayne Gretzky was a successful hockey player because not only did he look at where the puck was now but where it was going to be. From good preparation made up to this point, we could potentially look at not any tax increase, but that isn’t transparent of where we are going. We have the information that shows where we need to be to maintain our service level as we move into the future. As a county we are not immune to the increases everybody else is experiencing. Over the last number of years, we have cushioned that impact for our community in the toughest of times. And now we need to keep those reserves in place to meet the demands of not just 2024 and 2025 but even to 2035.”

The tax rate bylaw was approved by council with councillors Jordon Northcott, Neil Ratcliffe and deputy reeve Genny Mehlhaff voting against it.