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Council Supporting 10-Year “Transition Plan” for Bill 21

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
Council Supporting 10-Year "Transition Plan" for Bill 21

Councillor Meagher, Ault, Germain, Bussieres, and Tatum listening to discussions about 10-year "Transition Plan" // Jaryn Vecchio - Harvard Broadcasting

A new plan to help ease the region into a new tax ratio is being endorsed by council.

On Wednesday, they met for the last time before the election but before all the goodbyes – they supported a 10-year Transition Plan for Bill 21 and Bill 8 which will allow time to adjust to the new 5:1 ratio.

This year, the ratio is at 17.9, down from 18.3, after a two per cent reduction in all tax rates. In the next few years, those numbers will need to translate to the new ratio being set across the province.

Mayor Melissa Blake tells Mix News the plan is the most appropriate action the region could take.

“Right down to the wire, we’ve really put a depth of intent in trying to figure out what was going to be the best, most reasonable, rational thing we could do for the overall perspective of both industry and the municipality and 10 years is where we came to that agreement.”

As part of the plan, the municipality will look to partner with industry on making a joint submission to the Government of Alberta for their approval.

Blake notes industry wanted to see the new tax ratio be introduced immediately but after discussions they came to an agreement for a possible 10-year window.

This plan still needs to be approved the provincial government, who’ve stated in the past – they would allow the RMWB time to adjust. However, due to Bill 8, which looks to strengthen the Municipal Government Act (Bill 21), the province can pass regulations on when municipalities must meet the new ratio.

“Working hard to get the right feedback to them means I have expectation that they will actually comply with what our recommendations are,” added Blake.

She notes after all the estimates, analysis, and seeing the potential numbers – she’s no longer worried these Bills could have a devastating effect on the region.

“When the first idea hit us – it was shocking and it was damaging. Now it’s about operational efficiency and we’ve made improvements already and we know going forward there’s more opportunity.”

Some of the delegates who spoke on the issue, including mayoral candidate Don Scott, asked council to take the next month to better educate the community and leave the decision to the newly elected officials. Councillor Allan Vinni agreed – saying he and the general public “struggle to understand.”

“Our flaws at council are lack of engagement with our citizens, our lack to attempt to educate people and there’s still time to do that. This is a serious, serious issue.”

Vinni was the only one opposed to the transition plan with Councillor Tyran Ault not a part of the discussions due to a pecuniary interest.

Meanwhile, if the plan is approved by the government of Alberta, residents can expect to see a few changes over the next ten years as the region works towards the new ratio.

In 2017, the region received $737 million in tax revenue. By 2027, it’s being estimated to be around $528 million by reducing revenue by three per cent each year.

Over the next ten years, it’s being estimated that homeowners could expect to pay between $6 -$50 extra per year on their property taxes. The amount each property would pay could change each year due to annual property assessments, and tax rates.

Property taxes would only increase for the municipal portion not education tax. For urban properties, 40 per cent of their taxes go to the municipality while for rural properties, it’s at 25 per cent.

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