An energy company active in Kneehill County will pay its property taxes over the next year rather than in a lump sum.
The decision was made by county council at their regular meeting Oct. 27.
Councillors hosted Pine Cliff Energy Ltd. via teleconference from the company’s Calgary office.
Representing the company were Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Phil Hodge, Chief Operating Officer (COO) Terry McNeill, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Alan Macdonald and staff member Lochlin McLellan, who was present but not visible in the video conference.
According to Pine Cliff Energy’s website, Hodge joined Pine Cliff in January 2012 as president, chief executive officer and director. Before that Hodge held the positions of vice-president, business development and vice-president acquisitions and divestments at Penn West Exploration.
Pine Cliff Energy is publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the name PNE.
Hodge began the presentation by stating municipal property taxes are one of Pine Cliff Energy’s biggest expenses every year and of the tax bills the company gets, Kneehill’s is the heftiest.
Hodge stated 2019 and 2020 have both been difficult years, but 2021 is shaping up to be better.
However, he stated the company has been tightening its belt in a number of ways as energy revenue has dropped.
The company has frozen salaries and laid some staff off.
The CEO stated the company is also asking Kneehill County to help out with some flexibility as Pine Cliff Energy has been a good taxpayer, as last year the company paid about $13 million in property taxes.
This year, noted Hodge, Pine Cliff Energy can’t pay $13 million in one lump sum and Hodge stated he was asking for a 12-month payment plan for the tax bill and also asked that late penalties be waived.
McNeill noted lower revenue in the Alberta oil patch has affected virtually every company in one way or another.
Pine Cliff Energy has been affected many ways, including other companies that owed Pine Cliff money going out of business and being unable to pay their bills.
NcNeill stated he understands how the drop in revenue has affected Kneehill County, and it has affected Pine Cliff Energy the same way.
“We’re in this together, unfortunately,” said McNeill.
The COO stated Pine Cliff feels it’s done the best job possible in cutting costs, but still has a lengthy list of expenses it has to pay every month, including salaries, land payments and more.
Hodge stated a 12-month payment plan would allow Pine Cliff Energy much more flexibility in making payments and allow the company to weather the financial storm and plan for the future.
“The assets that we’re operating are assets that we hope to be operating for many decades to come,” said Hodge.
The CEO stated Pine Cliff Energy was seeing a lot of hesitancy from banks extending credit to the energy industry.
“We have no line of credit,” said Hodge, who noted Pine Cliff Energy was operating on a cash basis.
Reeve Jerry Wittstock stated Kneehill County residents value the Alberta oil and gas industry and understand the difficulty it’s facing right now.
After the video presentation was over, councillors decided to discuss Pine Cliff Energy’s request in closed session, which usually means only councillors and county Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Haugen were present.
After emerging from the closed session, councillors agreed to enter into a tax agreement with Pine Cliff Energy for the payment of 2020 taxes over a 12-month payment plan, from Oct. 21, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, with no penalties to be assessed.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter