Chamber informs council they want low business taxes to stay

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by Tristan Turner

The representative body of Morinville’s business owners has let Council know loud and clear what they want: keep business taxes low, even if it means residential taxes must go up. This comes after a presentation from Shaun Thompson, President of the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce presented to Council at their monthly Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting. The Chamber request is in opposition to recent discussions at Council about potentially splitting Morinville’s mill rates or at least having a discussion about the topic.

Morinville is the only municipality in Alberta that keeps its residential and business property tax rates (or mill rates) identical. Every other community in the province tends to have a higher business tax rate in order to reduce residential taxes or increase Town revenue. Thompson said Leduc is the only community in the province with a lower business mill rate than Morinville at 6.66 per $1000 of assessment compared to Morinville’s 6.67 per $1000 of assessment.

Some communities charge non-residential property owners upwards of 10 times the residential rate. Most communities are far more modest. Sturgeon County charges non-residential just under 3 times the residential rate.

Recent changes to the Municipal Governance Act will mean that every community in the province will have to cap out their business tax rate at five times the residential rate.

This topic is coming to a head now in Council because they will be setting Morinville’s tax rates for 2018 at the Apr. 24 meeting through second and third reading of the tax rates bylaw.

During the previous COW meeting, Mayor Barry Turner argued that this year, Council will have to explore their options when it comes to the mill rate and justify the rate in public debate.

“In the past, we have been not great at articulating plans to the community… and [our justification the rate] has never been said. At last council, it never even came to the table,” Turner said at the previous COW meeting. “At some point, it becomes an organizational thing that just carries on… we have an obligation to the community… as the only one of 87 municipalities that don’t split the rates, we owe an explanation.”

During the recent COW meeting, Thompson argued that lower business tax rates spur growth and keeping the rate lower could mean less empty leasing space in Town. Thompson also argued that keeping the business rate low would drive residential growth in the Town.

Thompson also briefly mentioned a lack of additional services to attract business.

“We do not have the broadband that other communities may have, and we believe we have to look at our mill rate as it is right now as a positive to bring further growth into our community until further resources are available to businesses, including a Full-Time Development Officer…”

Thompson did not submit his presentation – or any associated information – to Council ahead of their meeting, but he did circulate his prepared statement to Council and media during the presentation.

Council had many comments in response to the presentation, ranging from thanks for the information to some confusion on some of the Chamber’s arguments and their decision to provide no information for Council ahead of the meeting in their agenda package.

Councillor Sarah Hall was confused about Thompson’s reasoning that lower business taxes and therefore higher residential taxes would increase residential growth, while also removing Morinville’s status as a ‘bedroom community’, as Thompson quoted in a Morinville Development plan document during his speech. “I don’t think this helps your case,” Hall said.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe concurred, saying, “I also noticed a lot of logical fallacies in your statements including the one pointed out by my colleague [Councillor Hall].”

Thompson apologized for not submitting any information or his prepared speech ahead of time, stating that he just “wanted an opportunity to let Council know what we think [about the mill rate change].”

Council will debate Morinville’s 2018 mill rates at their Apr. 24 council meeting.

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14 Comments

  1. Another reason to not shop local. Business owners not wanting to pay their fair share. Shocking. What’s even more shocking is the attempt to use ‘trickle down economics’ as an argument. Laughable.

    • Why would you not shop local so those businesses shut down and there are $0 in tax revenue? Do local businesses take more of town tax dollars to service? Why should they pay more? CFIB ranked Morinville as the best in the province for fair taxes, which by my eye has attracted more businesses here. I like having options in town to go to.

  2. Unfortunate business owners don’t want to pay their fair share. If our residential taxes keep climbing, we’ll have a lot of vacant homes and a decrease in people shopping local. There has to be something fair to all.

  3. How is this about a “local business” owners? Do we realize that the large majority of “local businesses” don’t own the buildings they are in?? The local business isn’t the one paying the taxes. We need to focus our negative thoughts on the appropriate people not the local businesses!

    • Scott Richardson. I’m not “mad” but upset that residential taxes keep increasing but not commercial. If it doesn’t equal out, sooner or later, as property taxes keep rising, less people will be interested in purchasing a home in Morinville or staying in Morinville and therefore, less people to shop locally. And yes, business owners who do not own their own building will have no control over the rent increase to cover the taxes if business’s pay more… similar to a home owner.

    • Brenda Measner when resident taxes increase so does commercial! The just go up proportionally. The tax rate isn’t split like other municipalities, but if there is a 3% increase to residents then there is a 3% increase to commercial.

    • I guess the headline of keeping business taxes lower, even if the residential has to be higher that has me concerned. If the business tax is increased same as residential I don’t have a problem.

      • ONLY Morinville in all of Alberta has an equalized assessment. In all other communities, the non-residential mill rate is higher than the residential rate.

        Rockey Mountain House is the next closest to Morinville at 1:1.06 and Wetaskiwin County is the worst in the province, charging non-residential 6.91 times the residential rate.

  4. The commercial tax base in Morinville is small. Compared to larger centers that have larger commercial zones and many more businesses, this community does not have many options when citizens want more for less. When we moved here about 6 years ago our town taxes just about doubled. I knew why – there is little commercial taxation. The largest employer is the dog food factory. After that, everything falls off the radar. I like this town. People are nice. Businesses trying to make a living competing with two major centers less than 30 minutes away. I’ve always shopped locally when I can. Spending a dollar on gas to save 50 cents in the city makes no sense. Rather than bore you with other details, suffice to say this is a good town with lots going for it. Taxes will go up as long as the commercial base stays low. Therein is the trade off.

  5. I think Morinville is one of the few places who have it right.

    Business are so often made to pay more than their fair share.

    If we were to look at every dollar spent by the town on business services vs residential services, residential services are a much bigger chunk of the pie. Seems fair that the rates should reflect that. But even in Morinville, businesses are paying more than their fair share.

    Once you start loading more tax onto business, it’s so hard to shift it back to residents, and it’s practically impossible politically. Vancouver is a great example of that.

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