Some Town of Stettler property owners may get a pleasant surprise soon as the 2020 budget could allow for tax drops in some categories.
The budget was approved by town council at their May 19 regular meeting.
The draft budget was presented to council by town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Greg Switenky.
He noted that the draft operating budget called for a zero per cent increase to residential properties and actually called for a minus one per cent drop to non-residential properties.
Switenky noted that property values dropped in Stettler over their 2019 numbers.
“Property values (assessment) in Stettler for 2020 taxation purposes have been set in accordance with the assessment provisions contained in the Municipal Government Act,” stated Switenky in his memo to councillors.
“Each assessment must reflect the characteristics and physical condition of the property on Dec. 31, 2019; however, the valuation standard that must be applied is based on the property’s market value at July 1, 2019.
“For 2020 property values (assessment) for taxation purposes; residential values depreciated by an average of (- 1.15 per cent) while non-residential values depreciated by an average of (-0.22 per cent).
Individual property assessment values will vary within each class.”
The CAO also noted the coronavirus pandemic, and the subsequent effect it’s had on things like recreational facilities, has definitely affected the Town of Stettler’s budgeting process.
“COVID-19 is taking an unprecedented toll on our local economy and on the Town of Stettler finances,” stated Switenky.
“The closure of our facilities and cancellation of recreational programming, has resulted in significant temporary revenue losses.
Our immediate priority is the health of our residents but we must also start looking to the future and planning for recovery.
“We will continue to act in the best interests of our taxpayers while ensuring the Town of Stettler remains the true ‘Heart of Alberta.’
“In order to assist those financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Town of Stettler has extended the property tax payment deadline to Oct. 30, 2020 from June 30, 2020.
“Also, residents have the option to defer utility payments for up to three months for the billing period of April 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020.
“Additionally, the penalty charge, to be applied in April for February 2020 consumption was also waived.
“This budget assumes that foregone revenue losses will continue through the summer 2020 and will start recovery in September.
Non-tax revenue impairment is real but not expected to be permanent given the nature of the services that the town provides.”
Switenky stated the budget process initially projected a one per cent tax increase for both residential and non-residential categories, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit.
He said town staff sharpened their pencils to get the budget as efficient as possible given the situation.
With pandemic measures forcing closure of recreational facilities, Switenky stated the town was looking at revenue drops to the tune of about $712,000 which was offset by reduced expenditures by roughly $236,000.
That still left a revenue drop of roughly $500,000.
He noted no specific area of the budget was targeted for cuts, and sacrifices were made across all town departments, ensuring the process was even and fair.
The CAO stated a typical Stettler homeowner will likely, but not certainly, see a drop in their tax bill.
The total tax bill is affected by assessment and also by the mill rate.
He also stated that the Town of Stettler, over the past 10 years, has only had three instances where different tax rates were approved for different classes.
Mayor Sean Nolls stated councillors try hard to ensure the gap between residential and non-residential tax rates is small or non-existent.
Tax bills will also include the Alberta government school requisition, which the town collects on the province’s behalf.
Councillors unanimously approved the 2020 budget. Later in the meeting, they also approved the 2020 tax rate bylaw.
Assistant CAO Steven Gerlitz noted that tax notices will be mailed out by May 29.
Residents curious to see a multi-page breakdown of the budget can find it online at www.stettler.net under the “Town Services” heading.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter