Big Valley tax bylaw delayed

The Village of Big Valley council approved their 2024 operating budget, but the tax rate bylaw that will pay for it is delayed after they were told taxpayers may have been overcharged the past few years.

The operating budget was approved at the May 13 regular meeting of council, held one week earlier than usual due to the May long weekend.

Councillors heard a report from Village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Colleen Mayne who presented the draft 2024 operating budget, copies of which were provided to council and the public.

Before discussing the budget, Mayne noted that Village of Big Valley financial records suggest the budgets and tax rate bylaws for the years 2021, 2022 and 2023 don’t appear to line up; that is, the tax bylaw should collect an exact amount of money clearly identified by the budget.

Mayne stated it appears those three years’ tax rate bylaws may have overcharged Big Valley property owners.

The CAO stated that issue is still under investigation, and that’s also why councillors didn’t have the 2024 tax rate bylaw before them.

Mayne noted she felt it was necessary to complete the previous investigation first before passing any tax rate bylaw; councillors tabled the tax rate bylaw to an upcoming special meeting.

During budget discussions the CAO also confirmed a new Public Works foreman has been hired, along with a temporary Public Works worker and a summer student.

Rates and fees bylaw
While discussing the updated rates and fees bylaw, councillors heard that penalties of eight per cent applied to late property tax payments will be applied later than usual. The CAO noted that since the tax rate bylaw is delayed this year, the time to pay period for property owners will also be extended, possibly to Aug.

While discussing various fees and charges within the bylaw, councillors heard that property owners who don’t cut their grass may have the work done by a contractor working for the village; the expense is then billed to the property owner. If the expense isn’t paid, the fee is placed on the property owner’s tax bill.

Councillors unanimously passed all readings of the bylaw to bring it into effect.

Bridge invoice denied
It was noted in the minutes of the April 25 special council meeting the Village of Big Valley council declined to pay an invoice from the County of Stettler for a 2023 bridge repair project.

The county previously sent the village an invoice for $32,206.91 for work done last summer on Twp. Rd. #355.

The minutes read, “Moved by Coun. (Dan) Houle to regretfully decline payment of the County of Stettler invoice COS009954 in the amount of $32,206.91 and although the Village acknowledges Village council did sign a letter of support, provided by the County, in principal for grant purposes, the Village of Big Valley council never made a resolution to make payment, nor was an agreement provided to the Village to validate such payment.”

A fowl idea?
The CAO presented councillors with a draft policy for urban chickens; Mayne noted the Village of Big Valley currently has an animal control bylaw that essentially forbids farm animals in town.

Mayne stated she investigated the idea of allowing the ubiquitous urban chicken in Big Valley and presented councillors with the Village of Barrons’ urban hen bylaw for consideration.

The Barrons bylaw had a number of prohibitions, including no roosters allowed, along with an applicant needing the blessing of some of their neighbours. The bylaw also had strict rules for the size of chicken coops and setbacks, among other things.

During discussion it was also noted a pilot program could be attempted.

Coun. Tim Field stated he would like to hear what Big Valley residents think of the urban hen idea. The CAO responded that a survey could be conducted.

Councillors accepted the urban hen report as information.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.