City rumblings on property tax front is good news
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 03, 2012 06:00 am
“For a city to be healthy from a financial standpoint you want to see this (residential to commercial taxation) ratio in an 80 to 20 ratio, or even get it to 25 per cent.”
This comment from city manager Patrick Draper should have drawn smiles from St. Albert taxpayers when they read it in Saturday’s Gazette. While some council members have mused about whether an 80-to-20 residential-to-commercial taxation split was attainable, it’s good news to hear the city manager say such a split is essential for the future financial health of the city. Perhaps even to 75 to 25?
St. Albert taxpayers have long shouldered more than their fair share of the cost of running the city, but until recently it appeared they may have to live with that forever. Recent actions and statements, however, give residents hope that there may be, down the road, some relief from the hefty tax burden.
Since Draper’s arrival there have been more positive vibes out of city hall about making St. Albert business friendly – unlike its current, well-deserved reputation for being unwelcoming to business.
Back in March council decided to NOT add any new goals or priorities to its list so that it could focus its attention on the important remaining goals, particularly economic development.
“We’re trying to raise awareness and sharpen the focus,” Mayor Nolan Crouse said at the time. “Build and diversify St. Albert’s economy in partnership with the community and key stakeholders. What we were trying to do is not water down the importance of the economic development mandate.”
Then, in May, when the tax notices went out, it was announced that the city saw $170 million in new growth in the period between June 2010 and July 2011. While the bulk of that was residential in nature, the non-residential sector experienced a higher percentage of growth, which moved the residential/non-residential assessment ratio closer to an 88/11 split.
It was only about a quarter of a percentage point change, but at least it was a move in the right direction.
Then, last Monday, council gave first reading to an amendment to the municipal development plan that would designate 700 acres of land on the city’s west boundary for light industrial development.
As Campbell Park continues to fill with business developments, that new land will be essential for any plans by Draper and council to get to that long-sought-after 80-to-20 split.
The one stumbling block could be the landowners who refuse to sell for commercial development because they can make more money off residential. That’s a battle city hall is fighting and will ultimately have to win if St. Albert is to get to the proper taxation split.
Then came Draper’s address at the Big Issues Roundtable where he made it clear he wants St. Albert to aggressively pursue business development. Of course, he’s not the first city official to speak about making St. Albert business friendly and about actually trying to achieve the 80-to-20 ratio.
But his comments, coming on the heels of this summer’s actions by city council and administration certainly do give hope that this might actually become reality some day