by Tristan Turner
Council has unanimously passed first reading of their 2018 tax bylaw that would see Morinville residents pay a 0.96% increase ($19.86 per year on a $300,000 property) over 2017 in their property taxes. Until second and third reading pass, council still has an opportunity to make some changes to the rate based on expected impact of rate changes.
These figures were prepared for council by Chief Financial Officer Shawna Jason, who also reported that night that after a 2.57% education tax increase and a 0.46% homeland housing increase, at the end of the day residents should expect to pay $39.79 in total over 2017. These increases are collected for school boards and Homeland Housing by the Town, but the town has no control over these rates.
Ahead of this presentation of first reading, council had discussed at Committee of the Whole (COW) the possibility of splitting the residential and non-residential 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. In most other community’s in Alberta and Canada, businesses pay 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. At COW, council, (especially Mayor Turner and Deputy Mayor Dafoe) noted that they believed that they needed to have a discussion about splitting or not splitting the mill rate, and provide a justification for either decision to the community.
No discussion on splitting the rate was had at first reading, but typically first reading is only reserved for clarifying questions.
At council, Councillor Nicole Boutestein brought up that she would be interesting examining the possibility of increasing the tax rate above what would strictly be required to fund the budget, saying: “In the next couple of years we are going through huge transitions. The new rec facility, new staff, our population is also growing which means our infrastructure grows, which means public works grows. There will be more roads to clean grass to cut… It is a ripple effect that just keeps going up. I would hate to see something happen where we go from a 1 per cent tax increase to all of a sudden a 5 [per cent], where I think it is easier to maintain a 2 to 2.5 per cent rate now and put that extra money into reserves.”
In preparation for Boutestein’s question, Jason had information for council outlining how much extra it would cost per resident to increase the tax rate. Increasing the rate every half a per cent would bump up the average resident’s tax bill by approximately $10 per year, based on a $300,000 assessed property value.
After limited discussion and a brief presentation from administration, council swiftly passed first reading after little debate.
The tax rate will return to council for debate and possibly second and third reading on April 24th at their next regular meeting.