Bashaw council dealt with a tricky police funding situation at their Jan. 21 regular meeting, a tricky police funding situation that every municipality in Alberta is facing.
The meeting was blended between in-person and Zoom to meet pandemic rules.
Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller presented councillors with a request for decision on rescinding Bylaw #795 2020 Policing Special Tax Bylaw which the town passed last year to pay for increased police service, an expense made mandatory by the provincial government but to be paid directly by local taxpayers.
In the bylaw, Town of Bashaw councillors in effect tied the increased police costs to utility bills in an effort to spread the cost across as many residents as possible, rather than connect it to property taxes, resulting in property owners paying the bill for the entire community.
However, as Fuller explained in her presentation the bylaw had to be rescinded for 2021.
Coun. Darren Pearson asked, “Why?”
Fuller responded because the provincial government stated police services are not utilities.
Fuller pointed out there are quite a number of restrictions on how local governments can collect money for this increased policing.
Coun. Lynn Schultz stated it looked like the provincial government doesn’t want local taxpayers to know the province is downloading this cost onto them.
“And people think [town council] just raised the taxes,” said Schultz.
Fuller stated in 2020 increased police costs for Bashaw taxpayers were around $18,000, and in 2021 that will climb to about $23,000.
Coun. Rob McDonald stated the increased policing costs tax should be placed as separate item in Town of Bashaw tax bills so taxpayers know this cost is mandatory from the provincial government, not the Town of Bashaw.
The CAO and councillors agreed the increased police costs will have to be examined in closer detail at a future meeting.
In any event, councillors unanimously passed a motion to rescind Bylaw #795 2020 Policing Special Tax Bylaw.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter