Council has voted to approve both the recommendations that were sent to them via committees.
The Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee sent a recommendation of 5 motions regarding taxation matters.
This includes Council using its authority under section 347 of the Municipal Government Act to cancel the municipal portion of property taxes payable for 2016 on residential properties.
Everyone that was required to be evacuated due to the wildfire get a cancellation of 1/12 of the tax.
As well, for every residential property that was not allowed to be re-occupied after general re-entry, cancellation of 1/12 of the tax plus the pro-rated daily amount of the whole municipal portion of tax multiplied by the number of days the property was not able to be re-occupied.
“It was done in Slave Lake, done in Calgary, done in High River, why not Fort McMurray,” said Councillor Keith McGrath who was first to introduce the idea back before the WBRC was fully formed. “It’s a small token to the residents and hopefully the province will do with the education tax portion.”
The WBRC also recommended that the Government of Alberta be requested to remove the education tax levy and an application be made for funding support to offset the cancelled portion of municipal property taxes.
All Councillors present at the meeting voiced their approval with some having a few concerns.
Councillor Lance Bussieres said he would support the motions if they knew that Insurance Companies wouldn’t be the ones getting the tax break.
Councillor Jane Stroud voiced her concern over the 1/12th tax cancellation, as she was curious to know who would get the break, and how they will be chosen.
Mayor Melissa Blake responded by saying on this issue there are a lot of questions that don’t have answers, yet, as administration hasn’t had a real opportunity to review the information.
At the end of the discussions the vote still passed, 10-0.
The joint Rural and Sustainable Development Committee sent a recommendation to council to support a third party review of the 1995 amalgamation agreement.
Jeffrey O’Donnell, the Executive Director of the Conklin Resource and Development Advisory Committee, spoke on behalf of the Rural Coalition that wants to see equality between the rural and urban areas.
McGrath says he’s been reading the 1995 amalgamation agreement for the past couple of weeks and sees why many are unhappy.
“The amalgamation is 21 years old, like anything else in life it’s time to review it and see many good things done,” said McGrath.
Council in the end supported the recommendation, with a vote of 10-0, but not before a second motion branching off the review was brought up by Councillor Sheldon Germain.
The motion is aimed at trying to persuade the Alberta Government to write the fourth coming property tax revelations in an attempt to allow the municipality to create separate taxation categories and tax rates for small rural businesses that would no longer tie in with the rate of taxation from machinery and equipment.
“I hope to have council’s support on this and that the rural stakeholders would be willing to help work with us on a way to persuade the provincial government on those legislative changes,” said Germain.
“Anytime you can ease the burden on business and help grow, it does the community well,” added McGrath. “I wanted to throw in there federal subsidies for Fort Chipewyan Residents that pay to the nose, seven bucks for a liter of milk, its crazy.”
Council did not vote unanimously on this matter as Councillors Alan Vinni and Phil Meagher voted against, with the motion still passing at 8-2.
Council will meet again on Tuesday, September 6th in the Council Chambers at the Jubilee Centre.