Stettler county council waived penalties related to late property tax payments after the family in question said they missed their tax date because they were in the hospital with COVID.
The decision was made at the Jan. 12 regular meeting of council.
Councillors read the request from a Stettler County property owner, which was presented to them by Tax Clerk Sharon Larsen.
“The ratepayer is asking council to consider forgiveness on the November penalty $198.62,” stated Larsen’s memo to council.
“The ratepayers have suffered from medical hardships with COVID leaving them unable to look after their affairs. The family found the tax invoices after the tax deadline and have paid the original tax levy. The ratepayers are still not at residing at their home at this time.”
Several letters from the family in question, whose identity was redacted from the documents, were given to councillors explaining why the property taxes were paid late and why the family was asking forgiveness on the late penalties of almost $200.
“My name is (redacted) (former resident and frequent county visitor) on behalf of my parents (redacted) who reside on the quarter (redacted),” stated the first letter dated Dec. 15, 2021. “I have copied my mother (redacted) on this email.
“My parents were assessed county property taxes of $1,986.21 for the year 2021, which was due on Oct. 31, 2021. The due date was missed and a penalty of $198.62 was assessed on Nov. 5, 2021.
“The due date was missed due to both of my parents suffering medical hardships leaving them unable to manage their affairs while they sought help, care and eventually medical aid.
“The tax amount of $1,986.21 was paid on Dec. 10 upon reviewing mail on return.
“I have wrote a detailed account (please see signed document by myself and my mother) of what happened and would ask for waiver of this penalty. I understand this would need to be reviewed by the county council at their next meeting in January.”
The second letter stated the parents in question were long-time county residents who raised a family of six kids and farmed for over 40 years. However, they contacted COVID.
“Despite double vaccination, my parents both fell ill with the COVID delta variant in September,” the second letter, dated Dec. 14, 2021, stated.
“After their quarantine period was complete my parents went to Red Deer to receive help and care from their children to aid them in recovery.
“My mother (redacted) recovered in early October. But my father unfortunately was affected much worse. He is now recovering and discharged from the hospital but is still undergoing daily medical treatment and requires constant care.
“As such my parents are still in Red Deer, as my siblings and I continue to help them; they will likely return to the county in the new year.”
The unnamed writer stated no one realized the property tax bill went unpaid until the mail was checked.
“It was not until my mother and I returned to Stettler for a short visit Dec. 11 that it was realized the county taxes had been missed while opening mail,” stated the second letter.”
The staff memo stated the Municipal Government Act (MGA) grants council the authority to waive penalties if it’s equitable to do so.
“Please consider the ratepayers that have gone ahead and paid the penalty not requesting forgiveness,” stated Larsen’s memo.
Coun. Ernie Gendre stated he felt waiving the penalty was the right thing to do in the spirit of compassion for an elderly couple who were very ill, and made the motion to waive the $198.62.
Coun. Paul MacKay pointed out the outstanding property taxes were paid as soon as the family realized the mistake.
Coun. Justin Stevens agreed with Gendre that this was a situation requiring compassion, as it wasn’t forgetfulness but rather a medical emergency that caused the problem.
Coun. Les Stulberg stated his heart went out to these folks but at the same time felt councillors should be cautious as council has denied other tax penalty requests where people had health issues.
The request was granted by a 4 to 3 vote, with Gendre, Stevens, MacKay and Reeve Larry Clarke voting in favour and Stulberg, Coun. James Nibourg and Coun. Dave Grover voting against.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter