The County of Stettler council has granted partial relief of multiple years of tax penalties for a ratepayer.
During the Aug. 9 council meeting, councillors were presented with a request from a ratepayer who had “suffered hardship” including family death and job loss during the pandemic.
Having been unable to pay their taxes for 2020, 2021, or 2022, the ratepayer was in arrears, facing penalties of over $3,100 in addition to the missed taxes, and the potential of tax sale this fall.
According to legislation, a council has the authority to forgive taxes, allow for payment arrangements or otherwise vary tax structure provided that it “considers the equitability of it.”
In an effort to make things right with the county, the ratepayer had furnished a $10,000 post-dated cheque to county administration to begin cleaning up their back taxes.
In light of that overture, Coun. James Nibourg was willing to forgive the penalty and put forward the motion stating as such.
“I think this individual is working hard to make things square with us,” said Nibourg.
However, not everyone on council agreed with their colleague.
“I’m very concerned with setting that precedent,” said Reeve Larry Clarke.
“I worry if it doesn’t make us re-do our entire tax collection within the county. I would be maybe more in favour of having the penalty paid over time. I feel for the situation, but I feel it’s setting the wrong direction going forward.”
Coun. Justin Stevens sided with Nibourg; Stevens noted that council was discussing the potential loss of a family home and the “optics of that are just atrocious.”
“I’d like to see an arrangement of some sort,” said Stevens.
After further discussion amongst all councillors, an amended motion was passed waiving just under $2,800 of the penalty, with time to pay, provided that the post-dated cheque cleared.
The County of Stettler Council has set the 2023 tax sale date.
Properties going up for tax sale must be advertised in the Alberta Gazette between 40 and 90 days before any expected sale, as well as in one issue of a local newspaper between 10 and 20 days before the sale.
The date of the 2023 tax sale will be Dec. 7 at 9 a.m. at the County of Stettler administrative building.
Owners of properties on tax sale have until that time to make payment, in full, of their outstanding taxes in order to be removed from the tax sale list.
In light of the ongoing drought gripping the region, the County of Stettler has approved two waterline connections for agricultural use.
Both county properties are close to existing waterlines and the $15,000 connection covers costs associated with the installation of the line.
However, as both are being used for agriculture with plans to disconnect the service during winter months, or potentially if the region sees significant rains, the ratepayers have requested a waiver of the $22 per month administration fee that is charged for anyone connected to the water system.
Chief administrative officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy noted that the flat fee was in place long before the water system and is charged for all county-provided services; Director of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk also noted that per the bylaw, once connected to a county system, people pay the $22 to help continue providing those services, without provision for them to come on or off.
With a cost of around $260 a year for the connection administration fee, Nibourg noted that if farmers had to haul water to their properties they would have to pay more than that in just fuel after a couple of loads.
“Everybody is in the same boat,” said Nibourg.
“The $22 helps maintain our system.”
Nibourg motioned to accept the requests as information, meaning no further action will be taken and that the ratepayers requesting the waiver will not receive it.