by Tristan Turner
Morinville will continue to be the only municipality in Alberta that keeps its residential and business property tax rates (or ‘mill rates’) identical, at least this year.
After weeks of budget deliberations, presentations, and mill rate discussions, Council has decided to postpone full discussions about potentially splitting the business and residential mill rate, incorporating a mill rate discussion and tax review ahead of the 2019 budget.
Every other community in the province tends to have a higher non-residential tax rate to reduce residential taxes or increase Town revenue. Some communities have had upwards of 10 times the non-residential rate compared to residential rates, though most communities are far more modest. 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 a maximum of 5 times the residential rate.
During Council’s March COW meeting, Mayor Barry Turner argued council would have to explore their options for the 2018 tax year 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,” Turner said back in March. “At last council, it never even came to the table. 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.”
But this review did not come this year, with council unanimously voting to approve the 2018 tax plan with the rates the same for non-residential and residential ratepayers.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe made a motion to engage in a formal dialogue with non-residential and residential property owners about split-mill rates and Morinville’s taxation policy as part of Morinville’s upcoming tax review prior to the 2019 budget later this year. Dafoe’s motion, which includes a review of the MGA allowance for subclasses of non-residential taxation, passed unanimously.