Minimum tax for Sturgeon County discussed

By Staff

Sturgeon County – County Council heard there are currently 903 Sturgeon County properties that paid less than $50 in property taxes last year, many of that number paying as little as $3.26 in municipal taxes each year.

Administration delivered a detailed report to County Council in response to a request from County Councillor Tom Flynn that Sturgeon County consider implementing a minimum tax on its properties. Flynn’s argument, brought forth as a notice of motion at a late January meeting of Sturgeon County Council, was that assessments and tax bills could be costing the County more than they were recovering from the property owners in taxes. Flynn advocated a minimum tax of $50 per property.

In total $14,000 in municipal taxes were levied on the 903 properties, an average of approximately $15.50 per property. The majority of properties (824) are farmland parcels. Other properties include vacant residential lots and oilfield assessments.

Councillor Ken McGillis asked for a credible number on the administrative costs for assessing, processing and receiving taxes. “To make a final decision, we need to know what some of that is,” McGillis said.

Administration estimates it costs between $20 and $35 to process a tax account. At the low end of the scale it costs $18,060 to process the 903 properties, a loss of more than $4,000, given only $14,000 was collected on the properties. At the higher end, that loss is $17,605.

If Sturgeon County were to implement a minimum tax of $50 per property, those properties would take in $45,150 against a cost of between $18,060 and $31,605. At an administrative cost of $35 per tax account, Sturgeon County would need to implement a minimum tax of $35 per property to achieve full cost recovery, less than the January proposal of a $50 minimum.

Mayor Don Rigney said he was not supportive of the idea a minimum tax. “Are we a government or are we a fee for service?” Rigney asked fellow members of council, adding Sturgeon County needs to find a more effective way of delivering the services, reducing the estimated costs of processing its tax accounts.

Councillor David Kluthe was also not in favour of the idea of a minimum tax. Kluthe said discussion of a minimum tax was like kicking a hornet’s nest in Sturgeon County and that he’d received considerable opposition to the idea. Kluthe was the sole opposing vote to receiving the report as information.

The topic of a minimum tax will come up as part of the agenda in future town hall meetings.

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