Property tax penalty forgiveness rejected

The Village of Big Valley council turned down a request from a resident who wished to see reduced property tax and utility penalties on their bill.

The decision was made at the June 25 regular meeting of council.

The village council meetings are now open to the public as of June 25, but social distancing guidelines are still in effect.

According to village Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sandra Schell, councillors heard a presentation at their meeting from a resident who requested a reduction in property tax and utility penalties.

The request was not related to coronavirus, but rather to the resident’s own health and tight financial situation.

The Municipal Government Act gives councils the authority to grant such relaxations of they wish.

Schell stated councillors spoke about the request privately “in-camera,” but after coming back into the public meeting councillors voted to deny the request.

Public hearing

Schell noted that Parkland Community Planning Agency’s Natasha Wright helped the village conduct a public hearing for its proposed Municipal Development Plan.

Schell noted the public hearing was quiet, with only one member of the public attending.

The proposed MDP was publicly advertised and already passed first reading.

It went out to referral agencies and the only one with comments was ATCO, which simply reminded the village of things like setbacks and minimum distances from their infrastructure.

The CAO stated there were no comments either for or against the proposed MDP, a document which is now mandatory through the MGA.

Councillors closed the public hearing and passed second and third readings of the MDP.

Accountability review

The CAO stated councillors were happy with the village’s results in the provincial Municipal Accountability Review, which grades the municipality on its legislative gaps.

Schell stated Big Valley “did amazingly well,” with 11 gaps while average municipalities usually have about 18.

One of the gaps was said not to be that serious, dropping the number to 10.

One gap that was identified was the fact Big Valley doesn’t have an assessment review board. Schell stated council knows this and is planning to develop one.

Another gap exists in the procedural bylaw. It seems an existing power, allowing the mayor to expel a councillor from a meeting, is technically not allowed by the MGA. Schell noted the detail will be removed.

Some other minor items included wording on municipal library board appointments.

Schell noted the gaps will be addressed within the next 12 months.

Water and sewer

Schell stated Bylaw 849, the Water and Sewer Bylaw, is being reviewed and first appeared on council’s agenda earlier this spring.

Councillors are considering placing a late penalty in the bylaw for those utility customer who are late paying their bill.

Currently, Big Valley doesn’t have any penalty for those who pay their utility bills late other than sending the bill straight to the tax roll.

Gym memberships

Councillors discussed a proposal from local gym Prairie Fitness for the two organizations to sponsor free gym memberships for members of the Big Valley Fire Department.

Council agreed to work with the new business to develop a program for the firefighters and review it at year-end to see if it is feasible.

Serious about spring clean-up Schell stated councillors passed a resolution for bylaw officers to go out into Big Valley and enforce spring clean-up rules.

Typically, councillors don’t issue such resolutions and instead rely on community complaints for direction.

 

Stu Salkeld, Local journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

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.

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