In a slight glimmer of positivity, the Town of Hanna councillors were informed of this year’s tax collection and it’s better-than-expected outcome for the year.
At the regular meeting on Tues. Sept. 8, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Kim Neill shared that the town is down only 9.2 per cent in tax collection by the deadline of August.
The balance outstanding on the 2020 current levy was $721,484.96 at that time.
With the economic downturn seen across Alberta as well as the impact of COVID-19, municipalities were expecting much larger gaps like 30 per cent so to hear the numbers were relatively normal was a relief.
Anyone who missed the deadline has a smaller penalty to face at only four per cent versus a normal eight per cent after council made a motion earlier in the year to allow this.
The tax payment deadline was Aug. 31, 2020 and comparing this balance to the 2019 current levy outstanding on Aug. 31, 2019 of $660,839.61, there was $60,645.35 less collected in 2020 as of the Aug. 31 due date.
CAO Neill noted that the outstanding tax balance will be reduced by the amount of $432,740.40 by the end of December through the monthly pre-authorized payment plan that many have been switching too recently.
These payments leave an estimated amount of current levy taxes outstanding at year end of $288,764.56 which the town anticipates that figure to be further reduced by payments from property owners who missed the tax payment deadline.
The pre-authorized payments for taxes have increased by an average of $9,000 per month over 2019.
A land matter marked confidential to the public at this time was discussed by council privately.
According to CAO Neill it was an update on negotiations on a specific property.
No motions were made.
Fielding Place lot prices reduced
A massive reduction in lot prices for Fielding Place was accepted by council.
Newcomers that want to build in the development area will have a greater incentive to do so now that prices have been slashed by 70 per cent to spur wanted activity.
Recently, town administration had an inquiry regarding the Fielding Place lots.
They were advised of the prices established by council but also told that council was willing to listen to offers and advised if they were interested to make an offer.
As of this date no offer has been received.
This inquiry served as a reminder to administration to discuss with council on how they would like to proceed with lot prices and marketing of the Fielding Place, including the decision to focus on the ‘Retire to Hanna’ initiative.
This discussion took place at the Aug. 26 council information meeting, where administration was asked to prepare a resolution to set the lot prices for Fielding Place at 70 per cent less than the prices set in 2014.
Council, whose term was 2010 – 2013 as part of their Strategic Plan initiated the development of new residential lots as a priority.
In 2012 council reviewed land options and costs for the development of residential lots and at that time determined that development of a 15-lot subdivision south of Fox Lake Trail on land formerly known as the Longeway Trailer Park was the best option.
Council purchased the land and developed the 15-lot subdivision during 2013 and 2014 at a cost of approximately $1.4 million including the purchase of the land at $500,000.
Over the years, administration has approached the local builders to encourage the development of speculation homes including the offer of no-need-to-pay for the lot until such time as the property was sold.
Still no offers were received.
Council during the 2013 – 17 term advised administration that they were open to any and all offers and would deal with any offers on an individual basis and administration is still acting under this direction.
In 2018, Craig Berke and Mark Nikota presented their vision of smaller lots, screw pile foundations for 55+ age for new or active seniors.
It was anticipated that with smaller lots, an additional six lots could be created.
The ‘Retire to Hanna’ project is one of the projects awaiting funding approval from Western Economic Diversification to cover the cost of additional servicing, subdivision and primarily marketing.
The Hanna Spray Park Committee is applying for funding from the Community Foundation of Southeastern Alberta, however, the Foundation will only provide grants to qualified donors, which are registered charities or municipalities.
If an organization that does not have charitable status applies for funding and has a Declaration of Affiliation with a registered charity or municipality, the Foundation can choose to provide funds for the applicants project to a qualified donee who in turn can redistribute those dollars to the approved applicant for use on the approved project.
This agreement is required to be in place prior to submitting the final application which council agreed to enter into in order for the local committee to pursue this funding stream.
The Hanna Spray Park Committee application is for $25,000 to assist with the costs of completing the park.
The Town will act as the receiver of a donation from the Community Foundation of Southeastern Alberta and redistribute the donation funds received to the Hanna Spray Park Committee.
Outstanding items which will require funding include the excavation costs, electrical requirements and landscaping amenities.
If the application is successful, the committee would anticipate the project being completed with a grand opening in June 2021.
In September of 2019, council approved a similar agreement between the town and the Hanna Roundhouse Society.
As part of the Municipal Accountability Program (MAP), one issue highlighted was the need to designate a financial institution after their old agreement had expired.
For several years, the town has done the majority of their banking with the local Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).
A request for proposals was submitted to the four local banks in July of 2013.
Upon review of the proposals received it was noted that the difference between the top two proposals was approximately $700 per year which led the council at the time to continue working with RBC.
Council will be sending out a new tender in 2021 for their general banking services from local establishments.