Taxes rising on business, industrial properties

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jan 09, 2014 11:58 am

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The tax bill on commercial and industrial properties in Okotoks will go up next year.

The Town’s 2014 operating budget, approved by town councillors last month, will result in a increase to the differential tax rate on non-residential properties from 33 per cent to 38 per cent. Under the increase, tax rates on non-residential properties are 38 per cent higher than residential properties.

An Okotoks business owner said the increase is likely to be passed on to customers. However, Boothill Gallery owner Bernie Brown said there’s a limit to how much businesses can raise their prices to cover increases.

“I love having a business in Okotoks, don’t get that wrong, and I sure appreciate the support of the local people in Okotoks,” he said. “But, every time we have an extra cost it makes it a little harder to do business.”

While they pay a higher tax rate, Brown said businesses don’t get many of the municipal services residents receive for their taxes.

“The residents get garbage pick up and, for our taxes, I know we don’t get any of that,” he said. “There are some, I wouldn’t call them inequalities, but if I had some time to think about it one way or another I would wonder why we continue to pay more in relation.”

Mayor Bill Robertson defended the increase saying the Town needs to look at ways to increase tax revenues and ease the burden on homeowners and increasing the non-residential differential is one way to do it.

At one point, council was considering raising taxes on non-residential properties by seven percentage points, but opted to go with a five percentage point increase.

However, Robertson disagreed with the larger increase.

“I really felt that was too great of an increase,” he said.

Robertson said Okotoks is still competitive compared to other, similar sized municipalities.

The differential in the MD of Foothills for 2013 was 95 per cent.

In 2012, the differential in Airdrie was 85 per cent, 52 per cent in Cochrane and 39 per cent in Chestermere.

As well, the average differential for nine similar-sized municipalities, including Airdrie and Cochrane, in Alberta in 2012 was 62 per cent.

While Robertson said Okotoks could be moved closer to the average, he said still wants to see the Town remain below it.

“That’s definitely my goal to keep an advantage for business attraction,” he said. “That’s one more attractive feature for the Town of Okotoks.”

Robertson also said it’s better to slowly increase the non-residential taxes over time to get closer to the average, rather than doing a large increase in one year.


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