Tax increases less than expected
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014 09:03 am
Okotoks homeowners will face higher taxes this year, but the increase is less than originally anticipated.
Okotoks Town Council approved a property tax increase of 2.2 per cent over last year during its regular council meeting on April 28.
The increase means the tax bill on the average Okotoks home will increase by $66.81 to $3,086.41, lower than last year’s increase of 6.7 per cent. The typical home is identified as a three-bedroom, two story home valued at $407,200.
Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson said he is proud of the lower increase the Town was able to bring forward this year.
“It’s very good news for our taxpayers,” he said. “Because of unanticipated extra revenues from assessments and lower than expected school assessment, the affect on the taxpayer is going to be less than anticipated.
“We are able to do the things we wanted to do and the overall impact is far less than anticipated.”
Robertson said the Town initially anticipated an increase of 4.3 per cent, but a drop in the provincial education taxes, marigold library system and Foothills Foundation requisitions over last year brought that number down to 2.2 per cent.
Taxes collected on behalf of the Foothills School Division, Christ the Redeemer School Division, the Okotoks Public Library and the Foothills Foundation represent about 37 per cent of a typical residence’s property taxes.
While the municipal tax portion showed an increase of 6.15 per cent over last year for the typical homeowner, taxes for school divisions, the library and affordable housing dropped four per cent from last year, or $47 annually.
Robertson said the Town could have taken advantage of the decrease.
“We could have taken a higher increase for town revenues, but we didn’t take that,” he said. “It’s the responsible thing to do. We are always trying to balance what we want to do with what the impact is on the taxpayers.”
Coun. Ed Sands, who chairman of the finance budget, cautioned the Town against not utilizing the education reduction in the future if it continues to drop.
“The municipalities have been asking for years that the province get out of the property tax side of revenue generation and support things like school funding or other means because it’s difficult for us to raise funds on property taxes if a whole bunch of that is taken up by school taxes,” he said.
“Now the province is leaving a bit of room and we go, ‘Yahoo, bonus, we are not going to take any of that.’ We have things to buy in this community, we have things to fix in this community and we have things to build in this community.”
Rick Quail, Town of Okotoks municipal manager, said he’s pleased the Town was able to stay in line with its planned budget in December despite unexpended costs.
These include $40,000 in insurance premium rates and increases, $15,000 in postage rate increases, $175,000 in electrical tariff rates increases and $520,000 to hire additional staff.
Quail said Town administration is stretched tight in terms of workload compared to other municipalities and something had to be done.
Quail said the town’s recreation centre is operating seven days a week for 18 hour a day and adequate staff is being established to meet that need.
“The move to the continued growth model changed work activities, work load and priorities,” he said. “Plus, we’ve fallen behind in some of our operation activities and recreation facilities in terms of having enough staff.”