by Tristan Turner
Council has had an initial conversation about setting their 2018 ‘mill’ or tax rates ahead of their decisions on the matter in April. This conversation came in Committee of the Whole (COW) after a refresher on mill rates and assessment from Chief Financial Officer Shawna Jason.
This presentation came forward after a request for information from Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe regarding the possibility of splitting the mill rate. Morinville is currently the only municipality in Alberta that has a combined mill rate, meaning that residential and non-residential taxpayers (primarily businesses) pay the same tax rate, with most community’s businesses paying a higher tax rate to keep residential taxes lower.
Splitting the mill rate could lower taxes for Morinville residential property owners in 2018, who will be seeing a just under 1% tax increase in 2018 if the harmonized mill rate from past years carries forward.
Jason started her presentation by reminding council that, while Council has finished their budget for 2018, they still must approve a mill rate for 2018 by setting a tax rate that will correspond to the amount of revenue required by the budget. She also went into detail about the rate setting and individual property assessment process, including how homes are assessed for their value, and taxed accordingly at the set mill rate.
Most years for council this decision has been relatively simple – setting the mill rate to what rate is required to meet that year’s expenses.
Mayor Turner argued that this year, council will have to explore their options when it comes to the mill rate and justify the state of things in public debate, saying: “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. 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.”
Jason pointed out to Council that residential taxation makes up 86 per cent of Morinville’s tax revenue, meaning that splitting and increasing non-residential tax rates would only have a modest effect on tax revenue and having a harmonized rate has many other benefits, including promoting development and business in Town.
Council will discuss their 2018 mill rate at First Reading on April 10th, and again for Second and Possibly Third Reading on April 24th. Ahead of both meetings, Jason assured council she would prepare information on their options and the expected tax impact from mill-rate splitting options.