Blackfalds livid over tax bill
BLACKFALDS— Local leaders are fighting mad against the provincial government after learning the education portion of taxes will slap residents with much higher tax bills.
Changes have been made to how education property taxes are requisitioned by the province on behalf of school districts.
The provincial government is seeking a $600,000 increase on the education portion of taxes for Blackfalds.
This translates into a 39.5 per cent residential tax increase on residents, said Mayor Melodie Stol.
“In real dollars, we will have families facing tax increases of $400 to $500 — they (the government) needs to know that $400 or $500 in a year is unconscionable,” said Stol.
“How can our government profess to have a budget of no tax increases that will result families paying so much more every year?”
The growing community of just over 7,600 residents is in need of schools and its elementary school has been on the capital plan for modernization for more than 10 years, said Stol.
Last year’s municipal census showed there are 180 three-year-olds and 174 two-year-olds.
Alberta Municipal Affairs spokesman Jerry Ward said that the province’s calculations showed that last year an average house of $253,000 saw a $460 tax bill.
“While there may be some variances, based on the information provided by the town, the average increase is $210 (for 2013),” said Ward.
The province has decided that four municipalities — Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Waterton, Banff and Chestermere — will ease into this tax transition over several years because they are the hardest hit. Average increase for these homeowners in 2013 will be $400. Blackfalds wants to be the fifth community.
Ward said there are no plans to add any more communities.
Beginning in 2013, the amount of education tax that the government will requisition from municipalities will reflect about 32 per cent of the target operating costs for funding education.
The province is also discontinuing the averaging and capping formula used for calculating each municipality’s share of the education property tax and phasing-up the tax rates for municipalities in National Parks to the uniform provincial rates.
Ward said that last year an average house of $254,000 in Medicine Hat would have seen a tax bill of $690, so it’s a lot higher than in Blackfalds.
“You should be paying the same amount of education property tax,” he said. “We don’t necessarily collect anymore, it’s just a uniform rate across the province.”
The Town of Blackfalds sent letters to every MLA in Alberta.
Stol is urging residents to contact local MLAs immediately.
“We really need citizens to help,” said Stol.
A half dozen residents watching their children’s hockey game at the Blackfalds Multiplex declined comment on Saturday because they said this was the first they had heard of the tax increase.
Candice Zutter, a homeowner, said she wasn’t impressed with the news.
“What I’m disappointed with is that they do this tax increase and yet we still don’t have the schools,” Zutter said.
“That’s a big deal. If the rates are going to go up, then have the services there for our kids.”
Rod Fox, Wildrose MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka, said that Premier Alison Redford announced no tax increases in the provincial budget on March 7, but this change has simply amounted to a big tax increase.
“If they wanted to end this mitigation formula, they could have talked to communities across the province and spread the impact over several years instead of doing it all at once,” said Fox.
“This government is doing nothing less than downloading the costs back onto our communities.”