High Prairie taxes rising

Hardest hit will come from education, not municipal portion

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Residents in High Prairie will be paying a bit more for taxes this year.

Council passed its mill rate bylaw May 13 at a special meeting after agreeing to a two per cent increase in the mill rate for both residential and commercial properties.

The two per cent increase will generate $74,149 which is earmarked for reserves for future projects.

However, the hit in the pocketbook will seem much larger. Last year, council forgave one month of taxes on the municipal portion due to COVID hardships. A similar break will not occur this year so the 8.5 per cent break is gone.

Council made efforts to not increase taxes but with operating expenses rising and extra COVID costs, it was not possible.

“Our expenses didn’t decline,” said CAO Rod Risling. “That has to be absorbed.”

The Town collects all taxes including school tax and forwards it to the Alberta government. Mayor Brian Panasiuk asked if the school tax increased or decreased.

Risling delivered the bad news. On a $200,000 assessed property, school tax rose to $578 this year from $498 in 2020, a 16.06 per cent increase. On the non-residential side the rate increases 3.8 per cent. A $200,000 assessed property paid $739 last year but $767 this year.

The reason is while assessment decreased slightly in High Prairie it was worse in the rest of the province. The communities where assessment was more stable picked up the extra bill.

“Property values took significant hits around Alberta,” said Risling.

“Those that fared better [pay] more of the pie.

“What happened on the education side, it evens out over time,” said Risling.

“Unfortunately, not this year.”

Conversation from council turned to the expected backlash from residents over the increase, although it was not entirely their fault.

“We’ll get a little bit of criticism,” said Panasiuk, adding most residents simply look at the total bill and not the breakdown.

“We can expect we’ll be hearing from residents.”

He suggested a proactive approach by including an explanation in the Town newsletter. He then asked for suggestions.

Risling agreed.

“We absolutely have to get the message out.”

“Maybe a video wouldn’t hurt,” said Councillor Arlen Quartly.

“I think it’s worthwhile,” he added.

Panasiuk has released COVID updates which are popular with residents.

Tax notices are expected to be mailed May 17-23.

Residents and businesses have until June 30 to pay. Afterwards, a penalty of 10 per cent is applied by council. If the bill is still not paid by Dec. 31, a 14 per cent penalty is imposed.

The 2021 tax levy in High Prairie in 2021 is $3,781,618.

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