By Nikki Jamieson
Westwind Weekly News
The County of Warner is concerned about some proposed assessment changes from the province.
Although the Alberta government is continuing consultations on the proposed assessment changes to oil and gas infrastructure, if they passed it would be detrimental to municipal budgets and costs could be pasted onto their residents.
County of Warner Reeve Randy Taylor expressed concern about what the changes would mean for the county, if they should pass. The province has proposed four scenarios in which assessments can be reduced between seven to 20 per cent, which would represent a hefty tax revenue loss for the county.
“If passed it would mean a reduction of our taxes of between $350,000 and $900,000, depending on which model the province chooses, which represents about 3.8 – 10 percent of the taxes we collect,” said Taylor.
In a press release, the county argues that although the intended goal of this is to make oil and gas companies more competitive, it would disproportionally favour larger oil and gas companies, while smaller companies will see little decreases in their assessment. Additionally, the tax burden will have to be shifted elsewhere.
To make up the difference, the county would have to implement one or a combination of measures, such as increasing the residential mill rate by up to 34.9 per cent, increasing the non-residential mill rate by up to 37.6 per cent and reducing full-time staff by up to 21.9 per cent. Taylor says they would likely implement a combination of those measures to make up the loss.
“In reality, council would probably look at a combination of raising taxes and reducing expenses which would mean a reduction in service we would be able to provide and a reduction in the amount of money we could provide to the urban municipalities within our borders for things like recreation, fire services and community policing,” said Taylor. “While the county understands that it is a difficult time for the oil and gas industry, trying to fix issues through manipulating the assessment system is a transfer of the problem from one industry to another.”
Approximately 28 per cent of the taxes collected by the county goes towards schools, policing, seniors housing, libraries, Family and Community Support Services and urban recreation.
The county has already expressed their concerns to Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter, and urge their residents to contact their government officials to let them know their thoughts.