Town of Bashaw council decided to eat a tax debt owed to them by the Government of Alberta stemming from unpaid property taxes. The decision was made at the June 3 regular meeting of council.
Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller presented councillors with a report on “Grants in Place of Taxes,” which she explained was a term used in Edmonton for certain debts owed to municipalities. “The province used to pay the full amount of taxes on their provincially owned buildings,” stated Fuller’s memo.
“The term they use for these payments is ‘Grants in Place of Taxes.’ The provincial building is an example of a provincially-owned property. Twenty-eighteen was the last year they paid the grant in place of taxes, in full. Every year subsequently, they request we invoice for the full amount and they pay a portion of it. Within the budget we plan for an unpaid portion as an expense.”
Fuller provided councillors with a copy of the provincial government’s tax bill of over $18,000 and she added that the town already included $5,500 of the tax bill in the 2021 budget to be written off. However, $7,768.60 remains to be written off from previous years. “The province will remit payment for half of this year’s amount of $9,961.39,” stated Fuller. “They have informed us they will not be paying the outstanding.
“We will continue to true up the remaining arrears within the next budget,” stated the CAO.
During discussion Coun. Rob McDonald stated that it appears the provincial government is treated differently than other property owners.
Fuller also noted the provincial government also recently requested the town perform $6,000 in sidewalk repairs.
Mayor Penny Shantz stated she was very concerned to read this report. Councillors agreed to write off $5,500 owed from the provincial government’s tax bill.
Fuller presented a request from the local high school grad committee asking for permission to host a pandemic-compliant parade to honour the Bashaw School Class of ‘21. It was stated in the letter the class was hopeful they may be able to host a ceremony this year if pandemic restrictions are lifted, but if that’s not possible, the parade would be a great way to celebrate the student’s achievements.
A map was provided showing the parade route beginning at Bashaw School, eventually making tis way to Main Street, turning around at the ag grounds then ending back at the school. Tentative time and date was June 19 at 4 p.m. Councillors unanimously agreed to grant permission for the parade.
Fuller notified councillors Assistant CAO Darlene Sinclair, an employee of the town for 32 years, retired as of May 31, 2021. She stated that Sinclair must be removed as a signing authority for the town, while staff member Natasha Larkin should be added as the new one.
Fuller stated in typical situations the CAO and one councillor sign cheques. If the CAO is unavailable, then the assistant signs instead.
Councillors unanimously approved removing Sinclair and adding Larkin to the list of singing authorities. Fuller added that Sinclair has agreed to work one day a week to help with training and transition after her retirement.
The CAO noted that by next January the town will be down one part-time equivalent office staff. The CAO also noted that there have been no salary adjustments for town staff in two years.
The CAO’s recommendation was authorization to hire a part-time staff member for the town office to work two days a week beginning in 2022. Both Mayor Shantz and Coun. Rosella Peterman stated they were in favour of keeping staffing levels stable to keep the workload manageable.
Fuller also let councillors know the town has applied for two STEP (Summer Temporary Employment Positions) positions this summer but hasn’t heard anything back yet. The town requires more help in the summer with seasonal work such as grass cutting.
During the discussion councillors also discussed town staff workloads related to things like facilities which have been donated to the town, but still need ongoing funding and staff to operate.
Coun. Peterman noted that in Edmonton the city stopped cutting grass in some places because they couldn’t afford the cost.
Coun. McDonald suggested a town hall meeting to get input on prioritizing where local tax dollars should be spent, including what taxpayers want to keep and what they may not want to keep.
Councillors approved hiring a part-time staff member beginning in 2022.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter