By Melissa Villeneuve
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Residents of a Raymond mobile home park are relieved council has listened to concerns over what would have been a significant property tax hike. The owners of the 32 units in the park received notices on May 7 that they would have to pay a minimum $1,000 tax for improved properties this year, sparking a petition in protest.
For David Sims, who started the petition, his taxes would have gone from $411 last year to $1,111.
Sims, who lives on government pensions, pays his property tax in monthly installments, which are withdrawn based on the previous year’s rates. He’s already paid $430.
He says the town assessed his mobile home at over three times its value. He hired an outside consultant to re-assess it, who spoke to the town and advised Sims it wouldn’t make a difference because of the minimum tax.
The majority of those living in the park are seniors on pensions, people living on AISH or social assistance, or low-income earners, according to Sims. He said the trailers are on average 35-40 years old.
Scott Barton, Raymond chief administrative officer, said Raymond’s 2015 tax rates were slightly reduced, and the majority of properties will see nominal changes. However, the minimum property tax payable for improved properties increased from $800 to $1,000 and for vacant properties from $600 to $800.
“As the tax amounts were being entered into the town’s financial software this year it was noticed by administration that the 32 units in Designated Manufactured Home Community were not being charged the minimum tax amount,” wrote Barton in an email last Tuesday.
“The minimum tax was implemented in 2004 at $500 for improved properties and $250 for vacant properties and has increased over the years.”
When the administrative omission was corrected, it led to a significant increase in the property taxes for those units.
On May 12 Sims was worried about how he would scrounge up $700 to meet the July 15 payment deadline, before incurring a 12 per cent penalty.
By the morning of May 13, he was relieved to learn council discussed the issue at its committee meeting that night, and agreed to establish a specific $400 minimum for the trailer court.
“I’m waiting to see the new tax notice, but it’s a whole lot better than what they had before, because nobody here could afford what they had,” said Sims.
Barton wrote in a follow-up e-mail that administration would be contacting the 32 home owners and adjusting their tax bills.
“This will remove any significant increase to their tax bill.”
Sims had intended to present the petition and voice his concerns at the town council meeting on May 19. Instead, council formalized its decision.
“We’re looking at getting some kind of homeowners association going, so we can nip anything like this in the bud if it happens again,” said Sims. “We’re not out to hurt anybody. We just want fair play.”