Wheatland ratepayers to see mild increase in taxes to cover RCMP requisition
December 17, 2021 By Canadian Press / Local Journalism Initiative
Dec. 17, 2021, Wheatland County, Alta. – Wheatland County Council has approved a $450,000 increase to its operating budget for the 2022-24 interim budget plan to compensate for provincial requisitions.
The operating budget was presented to council during the Committee of the Whole meeting on Nov. 9, during which administration was directed to bring back options on different scenarios of tax rates.
Based on those scenarios, council would be granted a better idea of how much funds would be transferred into the county’s reserves.
During the Dec. 8 council meeting, administration brought forward five scenarios for consideration.
Administration recommended council to approve the $450,000 increase to the operating budget, so as to match the total RCMP requisition being mandatorily imposed on Wheatland County to collect.
For county taxpayers, this will appear as a 1.58 per cent increase to their taxes in all classes.
“I think that’s an easy sell, as long as we can explain to the ratepayers what this money is, because basically it’s downloaded to us by the province and that has to get paid somehow,” said Councillor Rick Laursen.
Councillor Glenn Koester suggested informing county ratepayers of the tax increase with their regular notice so as to keep the public informed as to why the change was present.
“We always send out an information paper with the tax notice. We could put it in there and say this is how much it is, but we’re not allowed to put it on the tax notice because of the same people who put this charge on us,” said Koester.
Administration clarified it is Council’s direction to be as fiscally prudent as possible and to keep taxes low for residents, however this change is largely outside of the county’s control.
The increase, however, was also noted to still be lower than the current rate of inflation.
In comparing Wheatland County to all other rural municipalities in Alberta that have provided information to the province, Administration also noted the county is currently in a strong financial position.
The County’s current ratio of assets to liabilities, according to administration, is 8.66 – which ranks roughly 17th in the province out of 62 gauged municipalities.
The County’s tax collectability falls well below the 50th percentile, though this was the result of a large tax account that did not pay their tax bill as of Dec. 31, 2020. This account in question, however, has since entered into an agreement to pay their dues over 18 months and has yet to miss a payment in the 11 months following the agreement.
Further details of the account were not discussed.
Regarding available cash and liquid assets, the county ranks seventh out of 62 municipalities and their accumulated surplus ranks 14 out of 62 reporting municipalities.
The relevance of such numbers suggests not increasing taxes may reduce revenue for the County, though it will have a minimal impact on its overall financial position.
Council will ultimately determine the final tax increase in April 2022 when the final operating budget is approved.
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