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Taxation and transitional housing big talking points at the Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
Taxation and transitional housing big talking points at the Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee

The Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee is sending a recommendation to council to approve various financial assistances in property taxes.

Put forward by Committee Member Marty Giles, he has ideas of a 1/12 tax cancellation for all residents who were evacuated, a month break for everyone after not being able to access their property in May, while adding more relief to the property owners of standing homes who can’t re-occupy.

Giles also wants to see more relief given to property owners whose homes were irreparably damaged, by allowing them to only pay just for the lot until the end of 2016, or if they decide to rebuild or sell the property.

The recommendation that council will view is amendments from Councillor Sheldon Germain, which includes getting the Province to remove the educational portion of the property tax and for the Province to cover the cost of tax relief.

“We could have took another 6 days to have all the “I”s dotted and the”T”s crossed but the spirit of it had to get out there to do it,” said Giles. ” So, now it’s out there, now at least the public knows about it, they can give us feedback, maybe some more things have to happen but at least it got moving, right”

Next step is for council to approve and vote on the recommendations, with Giles believing they will see eye to eye with the committee.

“I think it makes good sense and I think it’s a good judge of, for example, when we had our delegate come up, he was behind it, the vote on every amendment was supported, unless their from Pluto, I don’t know,” said Giles. “We just recommend what we think is best for the community but I can’t see, especially with our Councillors that are on, but who knows.”

Not every committee member was on board with at least one of the recommendations.

The idea to ask the province to remove the education tax portion was passed by a vote of 5-2 with Committee Members Kim Jenkins and Mark Hodson voting against.

“For insured residents, the municipal taxes are covered under their policy, so by this tax break, it’s really funding for a large part of our population, an insured item. Giving tax companies a break or some sort of a break, or relief as we go through this as a community isn’t a priority for me,” said Mark Hodson. “A priority for me is, how do we target the support that we want to supply as a community to those in the most need.”

However, because of the Municipal Government Act , no changes can be made to taxes in 2017 because they have yet to be assessed.

Those whose homes were destroyed by the wildfire will receive some tax relief in 2017 as their properties will be assessed with its value from July to December.

Council will not be able to discuss the matter until September 6th at the earliest, as on August 30th there is no meeting since council doesn’t meet on the fifth Tuesday of any given month.

While taxes took the spotlight, they weren’t the only matter on the agenda for Wednesday night.

The committee also heard an update on transitional housing with affordability, pet accommodation and a higher demand for three room units being the main reasons why some are having a hard time finding a temporary home.

For those who are struggling to find a place to stay, the RMWB is encouraging them to go to its website at where they have contacts with hotels and landlords while having options available for residents.

Residents can also call the Pulse Line at 780-743-7000 where they can answer your questions and concerns as well.

The biggest concern for Councillor Germain though, will be those living in RVs come winter.

“When we were in Edmonton on June 9th meeting with the Alberta Task Force, this was one of the things we didn’t want to see, our residents forced into RVs when it starts to get cold.”

The municipality has extended the temporary RV parking site at Abrams Land until October 31st with the hopes to have more temporary housing options in place for these residents before the deadline.
The next Committee meeting is scheduled for August 31st at 6 p.m. at the Jubilee Centre.