Town approves small tax hike
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 07, 2013 08:18 am
Turner Valley residents can expect to see a small increase in their tax bill this year.
Council approved a less than one per cent increase for both residential and non-residential taxes at a special council meeting on July 29, meaning the average taxpayer will see an increase of about $25 in their taxes this year over last.
“This year we worked hard to keep things very tight in this budget,” said Turner Valley Mayor Kelly Tuck. “Council agreed to utilize some of the reserves that we had this year and try to keep taxes as low as we possibly could. The last two years we had no increase.”
Residential taxes increased by .98 per cent and non-residential by .84 per cent. These amounts include the education and Foothills Foundation requisitions, Tuck said.
The average residential property assessed at $277,100 will see an increase of $27 in taxes and a commercial property worth about $248,500 will increase by $24.
“Knowing how other municipalities in the area have increased theirs I really hope they’re happy,” said Tuck. “We still have a large base of seniors within our community. When they are living off of their pension, money is tight. Families, too. Money is tight everywhere. It’s looking at things very closely, which we did.”
Turner Valley resident of two years Marjorie Kerley said the low tax increase comes as good news.
“That we’ve had a reprieve for two years is pretty amazing,” she said. “Nobody wants to spend more money. Everything else goes up so much more than that.”
Turner Valley council was late approving this year’s budget due to some unexpected delays, said Tuck. The first came when the staff member in charge of finances took a job in another community and the second delay came in June with the Town dealing with emergency situations that arose from the flooding of the Sheep River.
“I was at home working on the budget when the flooding started,” said Chief Administrative Officer Leslie Fitzgerald. “Every time we promised council the budget would be here on a specific date it never happened. There were things beyond our control.”
Fitzgerald said despite the delays, they worked hard to work the numbers to have as little impact on taxpayers as possible.
“It’s a struggle of every municipality to face shrinking grants and disaster recovery and staffing,” she said. “The problems are the same no matter the municipality, but we are in a fairly good financial position.”
The $2,316,460 budget reveals some increases in expenses, particularly in wages.
Among the hires this year is a full-time director of municipal operations and engineering, previously shared with the MD of Foothills, a full-time from the previous part-time chief administrative officer position, the sharing of a health and safety advisor with the Town of Black Diamond, additional clerical hours and a full-time deputy director of emergency management.
In response to costs associated with the June flood, the Town is putting some capital projects on hold including road repairs and sewer and waterline replacement, until the Disaster Recovery Program recoups those costs, said Tuck.
“We have a 10-year capital plan for water and sewer,” she said. “We would have liked to have done a couple more water and sewer lines.”
To compensate for the increased costs in staff and a reduction in provincial grant money, the Town is using $378,000 of its reserve fund.
Tuck said the Town has been making a conscious effort to put money into reserves every year in the event of an emergency.
“We’ve been very diligent in putting money away every year,” she said. “Now we are going to make it a policy and always put money away in the coffers in case something happens.”
Tuck said the plan is to replenish the money next year through the sale of municipal lands and other assets.
“We’re identifying lands that we can start selling off,” she said. “Whatever money that came out will go back into the coffers.”
The Town is giving taxpayers more than the traditional 30 days to pay their taxes, being sensitive that some may be experiencing financial hardships due to the flood.
The tax notices were sent on Aug. 6 and property owners have until Sept. 30 to make their payment. Taxes remaining unpaid after Sept. 30 will be charged a penalty of six per cent.