A Town of High Prairie councillor is furious that the provincial government is not paying full taxes on property it owns in the municipality.
At its regular meeting Nov. 14, council approved a motion to write off $62,759.02 in uncollect- ible taxes from the Government of Alberta, one half of the assessed property taxes on government-owned land in the town.
“This is crap – that the government doesn’t pay full taxes,” Councillor James Waikle said.
“Who else gets away with not paying their property taxes?”
Councillor Judy Stenhouse said the Town gets other funding from the government.
“We do get grants-in-lieu of taxes,” Stenhouse said.
Waikle quickly responded.
“But not for the full amount.”
The provincial government has reduced funding under the grants in place of taxes program by 50 per cent over the last few years, CAO Bill McKennan said.
Those government-owned properties remain on the assessment roll and are billed at the full assessed amount.
“However the provincial government will remit only 50 per cent of the billing,” McKennan said.
“This requires the Town to write off the outstanding balance on an annual basis.”
Provincial-owned properties within the town are assessed and billed annually.
“Of the total billing of $125,518.04, the Province will be paying half or $62,759.02,” McKennan told council.
“This equates to a 1.6 per cent rate implication, which is now being shared among all remaining ratepayers.”
He noted the write-offs were included in the 2023 budget.
High Prairie and other municipalities remain committed to dispute the issue.
“Council and the two municipal advocacy groups – Alberta Municipalities and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta – continue to advocate for fair and equitable treatment and full funding participation by the province,” McKennan said.
“Until this occurs, the 50 per cent not provided by the Province will be required to be written off.”
Mayor Brian Panasiuk noted the Town has already expressed its concern with the government.
“We’ve lobbied them and they’re not changing,” he said.
“We can continue to lobby government.”
The outstanding taxes include $43,409.34 for the Provincial Building, $10,279.93 for the High Prairie Courthouse, and $6,587.52 for the Youth Assessment Centre.
Other properties are for parking lots adjoining those three buildings with outstanding property taxes of $1,236.18, $778.78, $319.30 and $147.97.
Waikle voted against the motion.
However, the CAO advised council that all municipalities are required to pass a motion to write off 50 per cent of taxes for property owned by the provincial government.
“Government has made it clear that they have the ability to withhold funding if municipalities do not comply with provincial directives,” McKennan said.
He noted that the federal government pays full taxes on property it owns in municipalities.
Locally, the High Prairie RCMP station is the only land in the town owned by the federal government, McKennan says.
Canada Post is located in a leased building.
Reductions in funding and downloading to municipalities have been increasing over the last decade, he said.
Examples of funding reductions and downloading to municipalities include:
- A 50 per cent reduction to the grants in place of taxes.
- The Province is taking a greater share of revenue from municipally-issued fines.
- Policing costs previously provincially funded require municipal contributions.
- Year-over-year reductions in the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI).
- Downloading disaster recovery costs to municipalities.
by Richard Froese