Stettler town council gave an early Christmas present to the business community in the form of boosting the municipality’s tax incentive bylaw. The decision was made at the last regular council meeting of 2023, Dec. 19.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Leann Graham made a verbal presentation about updates to the non-residential tax incentive bylaw, which councillors stated they approved in the past as a way to encourage business growth and development in Stettler.

Earlier in the meeting a public hearing was held as required by the Municipal Government Act for the revised bylaw, with no members of the public appearing to speak. 

Mayor Sean Nolls, who chaired the public hearing, asked Graham if she received any written comments either for or against the proposed changes and Graham responded there were none received.

Nolls closed the public hearing.

It had been noted at a previous council meeting the non-residential tax incentive bylaw, usually referred to as a “business” bylaw, was being boosted by a couple of extra years of benefits over its original form.

Essentially the bylaw offers reduced property tax rates for new development or renovation, referred to as “revitalization” in the bylaw, of an existing development.

At a previous council meeting when the bylaw’s original version was discussed, councillors included “renovation” in order to address possible concerns from existing business owners; it was thought existing business owners may feel slighted by the substantial property tax rebates offered to new developments. 

Hence the tax incentive applies to new developments but also to existing developments who wish to renovate.

The bylaw allows this program to apply for up to five years, with both the term and level of benefit depending on the original dollar value of the project: From $5,000 to $100,000 of development the property tax rebate is 100 per cent for one year, for $100,000 to $500,000 the rebate is 100 per cent the first year, 50 per cent second year, for $500,000 to $1,000,000 in value the rebate is 100 per cent the first year, 75 per cent second year, 50 per cent third year, for $1,000,000 to $2,500,000 in development the rebate is the same as above but with 25 per cent the fourth year, for $2,500,000 to $5,000,000 in value the rebate is 100 per cent the first two years followed by 75 per cent in years three and four, for $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 the property tax rebate is 100 per cent for four years while new developments or renovations valued at $10,000,000 or more get five years of 100 per cent property tax rebate.

No discussion was held and councillors unanimously approved all readings necessary to approve the bylaw.

Franchise fees

Councillors perused the annual ATCO franchise fee notification; franchise fees are those fees which a municipality charges to utility companies to operate within the municipal boundaries. 

The CAO recommended extending ATCO’s franchise agreement, noting it was up to council to raise, lower or leave untouched the fee charged to the company if they wished.

Municipalities have options for how high or low the rates are set, but it’s been mentioned at many council meetings in the ECA Review coverage region that if councils elected to increase a franchise fee for ATCO or any number of other utility companies it’s assumed the utility companies will simply pass that increase along to the general public who use their services.

Mayor Nolls reflected this in his comments, saying that with the current state of the economy, including inflation and cost of living, he felt it wouldn’t be appropriate to increase the franchise fee at this time, obviously acknowledging Stettler residents would end up paying the increase.

Councillors unanimously agreed to renew the franchise agreement, leaving the rates unchanged.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jan 05, 2024 at 09:18

This item reprinted with permission from   East Central Alberta Review   Coronation, Alberta

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