Bashaw town council voted to rescind the town’s policing special tax bylaw during their regular meeting on Jan. 21, as chief administrative officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller explained the province had advised the bylaw was contrary to the Municipal Government Act (MGA).
$15,703 revenue from the policing tax in 2020 was to offset the cost of estimated operating costs that were downloaded to municipalities.
Municipal Affairs is completing a review of the town’s bylaws by April 1, 2021.
‘It has been brought to our attention that passing a bylaw to correct the policing funds in this way is not acceptable to Municipal Affairs and is not in alignment with the MGA,” said Fuller.
”They basically say within the MGA there’s specific criteria for utilities or recreation … but policing isn’t considered a utility service. It doesn’t meet the definition within any of the MGA to do a special tax bylaw.”
“So the province can require us to pay this bill and give us no way to raise the money to pay the bill?” asked Coun. Rob MacDonald.
“They are basically pressing that we treat it like an expense and embed it into our operating costs,” said Fuller.
Council had decided to create the bylaw in the first place so residents would know where the expense was coming from, and make it clear that it was an expense downloaded from the province.
Fuller says the town can certainly be clear in its communications going forward and in the tax notices what the extra cost is for and it can be shown as a line item in the details of budget breakdown.
In 2023, the bill the town will foot for policing costs will increase to $23,000.
“It is unfortunate that a special policing tax bylaw is not an approved way to do it, because really, it was a most fair way, because it distributed the cost of policing throughout the municipality evenly,” said Fuller.
She added that if the cost is paid for within property taxes, because then higher assessed businesses would pay a greater amount.
After some discussion, council decided to divide the expense between all taxable properties.
Fuller responded that she would look into the process for that, and council voted to rescind the bylaw, removing the tax from utility bills.
Dec. 10 council briefs
Bashaw Minor Soccer
Council voted to charge Bashaw Minor soccer a $20 flat seasonal rate for field maintenance. Coun. Pearson was opposed.
Bashaw Bus Society
The Bashaw Bus Society reported they had a good year with several charters that brought in revenue, but 2020 was challenging with the shutdowns due to COVID-19.
Bashaw Youth Foundation
Leanne McCarroll from the Bashaw Youth Foundation presented the foundation’s 2021 budget and shared their activities with council. They adapted to COVID-19 closures by providing kits and connecting with youth via Zoom. Through the summer, two children attend onside and up to 40 children were connecting through Facebook videos.
Interim operating budget
The 2021 interim operating budget was approved as presented.
Regional Assessment Review Board
Diane Szumlas was approved as a new board member of the Town of Bashaw Regional Assessment Review Board.
The CEO of the Camrose and Area Lodge Authority is leaving at the end of March.