Bashaw town council not pleased with province not paying up on taxes

Town of Bashaw meeting highlights for June 3, 2021

Bashaw Sign. (Photo Courtesy of Town of Bashaw)

By Kevin J. Sabo

For the Bashaw Star

The Town of Bashaw is writing off $5,500 worth of unpaid taxes, all associated with the provincial building in town.

The provincial building is taxed just like any other building in the municipality, however the province calls it “grants in place of taxes.” Tax assessments are sent out every year, including to the provincial government, however the last year the full assessment was paid on the property was in 2018, according to Chief Administrative Officer Theresa Fuller

“The provincial building is an example of provincially-owned property,” said Fuller.

“Each year subsequent to 2018, they request we invoice for the full amount, and then they pay a portion of it.”

According to Fuller, the province paid 60 per cent of the tax assessment in 2019, and then 50 per cent in 2020. The province has informed Fuller that the province will pay 50 per cent of the “grants in place of taxes” amount for 2021, however they will not pay the outstanding amount.

“How about we seize the building?” said Coun. Rob McDonald.

“Why should they be treated any different than any other organization?”

Fuller, and the rest of council, agreed with his take on the situation, however there is very little the town can do.

“It’s frustrating,” said Fuller, during the June 3 council meeting.

“Because we put in a brand-new sidewalk. They called saying that it was unsafe, and last year we did replace (it). It was like $6,000. If you’re not going to give us any money to replace the sidewalk, then maybe we should be sending you the bill for the repairs.”

Council agreed with Fuller’s assessment, however they also agreed with her that they were unlikely to get anywhere with the province.

“Not with this government,” said McDonald.

Deputy Mayor Rosella Peterman said that maintenance of the property should be up to the province.

“The maintenance should be up to them, and the sidewalk on their property should be up to them said Peterman, before ultimately supporting a motion put forward by Coun. Darren Pearson.

“I don’t think we have a choice.”

Staffing

There are some staffing changes happening at the Town of Bashaw administration office.

With the retirement of Assistant CAO Darlene Sinclair after 32 years, Natasha Larkin has taken over the role. Larkin and Sinclair have been working together throughout the spring to ensure a smooth transition, and despite her retirement, Sinclair has agreed to continue working with Larkin one day a week through December 31, 2021.

Typically, the town administration works with two part-time and two full-time employees. One full-time employee works three days a week, and the other two days.

However, with both Larkin and Sinclair working full-time hours up until the end of May, an extra stress has been placed on the administration budget. As such, the town will operate with two full-time staff (CAO Fuller and ACAO Larkin), one part-time employee working three days a week, and Sinclair one day a week.

While not ideal, running with slightly reduced staff will help 2021’s administrative budget come closer to normal. Beginning in January 2022, with a new budget, council has approved the hiring of a new two-day-a week part-time staff member.

“Staff in that two-day position would serve in a communications role,” said CAO Fuller.

“They would keep the website, Facebook, and things like that updated.”

Fuller acknowledged that both administration and public works are short staffed at the moment, resulting in delays of projects being done. Fuller applied for Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) funding from the federal government earlier in the year, however, has yet to hear anything back.

One issue Fuller acknowledged is that though the Town of Bashaw has great volunteer enthusiasm, some of the projects once completed revert to the town for ongoing maintenance.

“The maintenance of those items is costing us,” said Fuller.

“There is a lot more to it. Users want these spaces to look to a level (of maintenance). When they don’t, it seems like staff inadequacy, which may not be the case. I’m not sure what the answer is.”

Grad parade

The 2021 Town of Bashaw grad class has approached town council for approval on organizing a parade on June 19.

The parade will marshal at the arena, before departing and working its way through town at 4 p.m.

The school initially submitted the request to council, however due to insurance liability.

In the evening following the parade, the grad class will hold a drive-in graduation ceremony.

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