Village of Alix council will give much longer time for residents to pay their tax bill without penalties and hope to also include an incentive for those who pay their property taxes early.
The councillors made these decisions at their regular meeting on April 15.
Village CAO Michelle White gave councillors a report on Bylaw 455/20, Tax Penalties, which addressed the ongoing issue of financial difficulties Alix residents may be facing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Her report noted several options open to councillors, including keeping property tax penalties, as usual, waiving tax penalties for the rest of the year, pushing the tax penalties back later in the year and offering an incentive for residents to pay their property taxes early.
White noted the provincial government requires municipalities to at least grant a six-month deferral for school requisition for non-residential taxes.
The CAO stated Alix’s proposed bylaw would include residential and industrial in that deferral, in effect treating all zones equally.
Coun. Tim Besuijen stated the incentive, a discount if residents paid their taxes early this summer, seemed to only help those who could afford it.
He said it didn’t seem a viable option for those having financial difficulty.
“I want to make sure we’re helping the right people,” said Besuijen.
However, Coun. Vicki Soltermann disagreed. She stated a discount saves resident’s money in tough times, encourages everyone to pay and will collect taxes for the village to operate.
“It’s a lot of people who are struggling,” said Soltermann.
She added that she feels Alix collects too much tax already. “We charge too much as it is,” said Soltermann.
White stated that property value drops have resulted in tax decreases in Alix by about $17,000 for 2020.
Coun. Barb Gilliat stated she preferred just the penalty deferral which meets the provincial guidelines and would potentially help everyone.
Mayor Rob Fehr also wondered if the discount for early payment would help everyone and what effect it would have on village operations but also wanted to do something to help struggling residents.
“I see both sides,” said the mayor. “It’s a tough one.”
CAO White noted in her report that waiving mid-year tax penalties could cost the village about $10,000 in revenue, and she went even further by noting that a 10 per cent discount on 2020 property taxes, if every resident took advantage of the offer, could cost the village just over $155,000.
White also stated the village’s finances are stable, large taxpayers have told her they plan to pay their taxes as normal and staff may bring budget adjustments to council in late summer if needed.
Councillors also discussed how many times residents would get the discount and whether the discount would be available for those who could only pay less than their total amount owing.
Coun. Ed Cole stated he was concerned about deferring too much debt down the road as it may be even more difficult for people to pay.
Gilliat, a business owner, stated the discount can’t help those who have serious cash flow problems.
“This won’t help me anyway,” said Gilliat, stating her cash flow is rather low.
Councillors approved a motion by a 4 to 1 vote that administration develop a bylaw to bring back for council approval allowing the village to offer a 10 per cent discount to those residents who pay their current 2020 property taxes by July 31.
The proposed bylaw will be returned for consideration at a future meeting.
Councillors noted a second time that the 10 per cent discount would only apply to current 2020 property taxes and not tax arrears.
Councillors also passed all readings necessary to push tax penalties back to Sept. 30.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter