County of Stettler council has waived late tax payment penalties if those ratepayers clear up their accounts by the Jan. 29, 2021 deadline.
The decision was made at the Dec. 9 regular meeting of council.
Councillors read a report from Sharon Larsen, tax and utilities clerk, listing a number of tax rolls which had not paid off their balance by the Nov. 1 deadline.
Larsen stated councillors had pondered earlier this year about waiving those late payment fees due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated financial hardship people may be experiencing.
“Confirmation is required for forgiveness of the Nov. 1, 2020 penalty offered to ratepayers who have their property taxes paid in full by Jan. 29, 2021,” stated Larsen in her report to council.
“Council stated in October 2020 that they would consider offering the Nov. 1, 2020 tax penalty forgiveness to the businesses and individuals in the municipality that are feeling the effects from COVID and the economic downturn experienced this year.
“Section 347 of the Municipal Government Act requires that any deferral, reduction or cancellation of taxes or penalties must be granted only if council considers it equitable.
“Council can consider whether granting a cancellation or deferral of taxes in one particular case would be unfair to other ratepayers that owe taxes or pay their taxes in the normal course.”
Larsen provided councillors with a list of 18 tax rolls that still owed the county money, though no names were included, only roll numbers. The largest property tax debt owing was $15,585.19.
The report stated the entire amount of late fee revenue owed by those who missed the Nov. 1 deadline was $4,361.40 and the entire amount of unpaid tax from those 18 accounts totalled $41,120.89.
The Nov. 1 late fee was, according to the report, 10 per cent.
Larsen also noted that all 18 ratepayers requested the County of Stettler waive the late fees if their accounts are paid by Jan. 29.
During discussion, Larsen stated the types of tax rolls ranged from farms and acreages to businesses.
Coun. James Nibourg wondered if all County of Stettler ratepayers knew they had this option open to them. “Did we advertise this well enough?” Nibourg asked.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy stated that if people know they are in financial difficulty and know they’re going to have trouble paying their taxes on time, they should contact the county office and talk to staff about the problem.
“If you need help, you have to ask,” said Cassidy.
Coun. Les Stulberg noted the county’s relief plan is intended to help those suffering financial difficulties caused by the pandemic, not for those who are simply behind in paying their tax bill.
Coun. Wayne Nixon agreed with the CAO, he said the onus must be on the ratepayer to let the county know they’re in trouble.
Larsen stated in her report county staff recommended “That upon receiving all prescribed payments by Jan. 29, 2021, the County of Stettler No. 6 shall waive any penalties on the outstanding taxes that would otherwise accrue during the currency of this agreement for rolls 855500, 430600, 430601, 430602, 430602, 430606, 430607, 430608, 430609, 430615, 444401, 789811, 789812, 789813, 789814, 980100, 573101, 195000 and 864111.
Councillors approved the recommendation.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter