By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review
Increased costs for policing across Alberta may have been ordered by Edmonton in 2019, but it’s the everyday taxpaying Albertan who will be ponying up for them.
How they will go about paying those costs, though, has become a bit of a mystery.
Case in point: the Town of Bashaw regular council meeting Feb. 4, where Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller brought back to council a report on how the municipality can collect the province’s new policing tax revenue.
The provincial government announced late in 2019 that it was boosting police service across Alberta and that local taxpayers would foot the bill.
At their last regular council meeting Bashaw councillors rescinded their previous attempt to pass on the costs through a utility fee.
At that meeting, Fuller stated the provincial government prohibits municipalities collecting police funds through utilities fees.
Councillors asked Fuller to investigate other avenues.
She returned with a report that stated it appears there are few options.
“Inquired from villages in Camrose County, Clive and Alix,” stated Fuller’s report. “Many of them are including it as an expense within their operating budget.
“Several of the villages are using their Municipal Sustainability Initiative Operating grant to pay for it.
“Proceeding this way ensures there is not a tax increase, however operational costs are then supported by a grant; not a sustainable way to manage it.
“The Town of Bashaw is undergoing a Municipal Accountability Program review in April.
If we choose to proceed in the same manner as the county, include it as a requisition, it will be reflected against us in our review.
“The municipal advisor assisting with our review has informed us the only recommended method is to include it in operational costs as an expense.
“In the event that we proceed with a requisition, it could present a liability.”
Fuller noted the general public may see it as the local council increasing taxes. “It is unfortunate that it presents an inaccurate picture of increased taxes,” she stated.
Coun. Lynn Schultz stated he was frustrated that it seems the province is worried about taking the blame for increasing taxes.
“I guess there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Schultz.
Coun. Darren Pearson suggested tax bills, for example, should have a note explaining the tax hike came from the provincial government.
“As long as the people know why the taxes are going up,” said Pearson.
Pearson then suggested increasing tax rates on provincial government property in Bashaw, to which he received some laughter from fellow councillors.
The conversation closed by Fuller noting Bashaw taxpayers would be paying $23,000 more this year for policing.