The Town of Strathmore is discussing potential changes to its Seniors Property Tax Rebate program, which is aimed to make the program more accessible and friendly to residents.

The Seniors Property Tax Rebate program ensures certain levels of affordability for residents of Strathmore by offering a subsidy to support low-income senior property owners.

Ultimately, the goal of the program is to provide support to low-income senior property owners with their property taxes, ensuring that they can remain in their homes longer.

Through the program, seniors are able to receive a small financial rebate that is associated with their annual property taxes.

Proposed changes to the policy would not impact the implementation of the program as administration is currently utilizing the income thresholds as listed on the Government of Alberta Special Needs Assistance for Seniors webpage.

Administration identified the Seniors Property Tax Rebate should be updated to remove the income thresholds from the policy. The current policy includes thresholds which are outdated.

“There are some small changes throughout the (policy) and the larger change is removing annual income thresholds in the middle of our table and just referring back to the Government of Alberta Special Needs Assistance for Seniors income,” said Budd Brazier, community and social development manager with Strathmore Family and Community Support Services (FCSS).

Effectively, many instances of amendment within the policy simply refer to changing wordage to better reflect the intent and application of the policy, as well as to correct spelling errors.

Coun. Wiley inquired regarding the annual costs of the rebates, and how much money was returned to seniors each year through the policy. 

Brazier explained in 2019, the policy cost the town approximately $19,400 and serviced 132 homeowners. In 2020, it cost the town $14,150 and serviced 92 clients. In 2021, 117 clients were serviced, with $18,400 being distributed.

Finally, in 2022, 66 clients were serviced, costing the town approximately $10,700 through the program. 

As of the Oct. 11 Committee of the Whole meeting, the town had distributed $9,650 in rebates in service of 61 clients. 

“My heart is really torn on this one. As councillors, we want everyone to be able to stay in their house. This August, I met a family that was living on my street, they were renting a basement suite – four kids and they could not afford rent in town anymore,” said Wiley. “Part of rent is property tax, so part of the reason rents are high … is the property tax is high, and so we bring in policies to help people stay in their homes, and rent goes up.”

Wiley emphasized when the policy returns to council for discussion, it effectively means in the eyes of the town, money is being taken from one group and being given to another.

The discussion will return to council during their next regular meeting.

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Oct 18, 2023 at 16:28

This item reprinted with permission from   Strathmore Times   Strathmore, Alberta

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