by Colin Smith
Morinville residents are getting a break on their property tax and utility payments as part of the Town’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Council adopted the Property Tax and Utility Payment Deferral Program on Friday during a special meeting held by video conferencing.
The deadline for property owners to pay taxes has been extended from June 30 to August 31, although property tax notices will be mailed out in May. Regular tax penalties will begin to apply as of September 1.
Municipal utility payments for March through August can also be deferred without penalty. Payments for August bills will be due at the end of September and penalties on unpaid balances will appear on October bills.
In addition, a tax sale on a Morinville property scheduled for April 9 has been postponed to June 25.
These changes will be formalized through bylaws to be brought before Council at its April 14 regular meeting.
“The Town of Morinville continues to look at ways to support our community,” said Mayor Barry Turner. “By allowing residents and businesses the option to defer payments, we hope to reduce the financial strain on our residents while ensuring we can still deliver the services our residents need. We do encourage payment of these bills if possible, in whole or in part, to help support our local government operations.”
More information about Property Tax and Utility Payment Deferral Program is available at www.morinville.ca/covid19, in the FAQs section.
Earlier this week, Sturgeon County also deferred property tax and utility bills.
EXTENSION OF FACILITIES CLOSURE
Council also approved the continued closure of town facilities. The Morinville Leisure Centre, Morinville Community Cultural Centre, outdoor baseball/softball diamonds and soccer fields and the splash park will remain closed until May 31. Playgrounds remain open.
Morinville Town Hall is now mainly closed to the public. Access is by appointment.
Corporate Services Director Shawna Jason presented a report on the financial implications of the COVID-19 crisis for the Town of Morinville.
Jason said the Town of Morinville would be facing a drop in revenue as a result of facility closures and the deferral of property taxes and utilities payments to the extent that takes place.
If zero revenue were to come in between April 1 and August 31, it would be facing a deficit of $3 million, she said. However, a 50 per cent drop is a more reasonable possibility.
Options for making up any shortfall include drawing on the Town’s operating account overdraft of $1 million and deferring some of the $650,000 in projects included in the 2020 Capital Budget, although the Administration is not recommending any budgetary changes at this point.
Councillors also discussed human resources matters in a closed session.
SPECIAL MEETING BY VIDEO
The special meeting was held in accordance with the recently enacted Meetings Procedures (COVID-19 Suppression) Regulation, which provides for municipal meetings and public hearings to be held in a manner that supports social distancing recommendations.
During the emergency, Ministerial Order MSD:022/20 allows for meetings and hearings to be conducted entirely through electronic means, as long as notice of the meeting is given and includes the information necessary for the public to access the meeting. The public must be able to hear the meeting as it is occurring.
Morinville Council’s meeting employed the Microsoft Teams software package.