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Property tax increase lowered

Sum required from taxes now only 1.18 per cent increase over 2013

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014 06:00 am

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St. Albert municipal taxpayers will be on the hook for less than expected when their property tax bills arrive this summer.

The final tax requirement amount was approved by council on Monday night for $84,979,045. That is $571,355 less than what was required when council passed their budget in December.

The decrease means rather than facing a 1.87 per cent increase, the increase now sits at 1.18 per cent. That does not impact tax requisitions outside of the city’s control that appear on the bill, which are for education tax and the Sturgeon Foundation.

Council also voted to transfer $651,550 from municipal growth revenue into the growth stabilization reserve, though that account still needs to be set up.

The decrease is due to a few motions from March meetings where council used various funds to reduce the tax rate.

For instance, $80,055 that was going to be transferred to capital reserves after being surplus in 2013 was instead used to off-set one-time costs in the 2014 operating budget.

2013 operating surplus funds were used to fund four business cases for 2014, to the tune of another $191,300.

The residual balance of the 2013 operating surplus funds got divvied up between the utility reserves and the 2014 tax rate, which meant another $300,000 went to reduce the amount needed for tax.

The staff report also noted the assessment growth was going to be larger than expected.

The 2014 budget predicted the growth rate would be 2.75 per cent. The city assessor has since confirmed the rate is 2.91 per cent, which means about $213,000 more will be collected than expected.

Coun. Sheena Hughes was upset that a policy decided in February, which split new assessment growth so that 75 per cent of the funds went to new initiatives and 25 per cent would offset base adjustments, was not implemented in the 2014 budget.

“The formula itself, the 75/25, does not apply to this budget,” said city manager Patrick Draper, noting the policy was developed after the 2014 budget was approved.

After a brief recess and excusing financial staff from the meeting so they could look at the numbers, Draper said if council wished to retroactively apply the formula, another $400,000 would go towards lowering property taxes. Council did not pursue that route.

Under questioning from council, Draper estimated the 2015 operating budget will increase three to five per cent, noting there’s been two years of significant reductions.

Coun. Cathy Heron made the motion to see the municipal growth revenue transfer occur and to finalize the tax requirement for the year.

“I think we have found every efficiency in our operating budget that we can,” Heron said.

While the rest of council present agreed – Coun. Cam MacKay was absent – and passed the motion by a 5-1 vote, Hughes maintained her opposition to putting the $651,550 aside to go into the growth stabilization reserve once it’s set up.

“It would be lovely if council actually followed the direction it had,” Hughes said. “This is truly sad that we think this is worth applauding.”


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