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Lacombe County joins oilfield assessment fight

Lacombe County has agreed to share the costs of a legal fight over how oilfield facilities are assessed.

County commissioner Terry Hager told council on Friday that due to a revision in provincial government assessment legislation, a number of rural municipalities, including Lacombe County, changed the way they assessed for tax purposes oilfield sites with equipment or structures on them.

Previously assessed at farmland rates, the properties are now assessed at market rates.

Not all oil companies agreed with the municipalities’ interpretations and an assessment appeal was launched by two oil companies in Kneehill County affecting more than 400 sites.

Appeals were also launched in Red Deer County but later withdrawn, but not until the municipality spent about $12,000 in legal bills.

Since four counties and the Municipal District of Taber have a stake in the outcome of Kneehill County’s fight, municipalities have been asked to share the costs equally.

The outcome of the assessments could have a “significant impact on Lacombe County,” Hager told council.

In 2012, the county collected $180,000 in additional taxes because of the change, of which $100,000 went to the county. The rest went to Alberta Education and the Lacombe Foundation.

The county has checked with Alberta Municipal Affairs, which has agreed with assessors’ interpretations, he said.

“We’re fairly confident that the position they have taken is the correct position.”

Council unanimously agreed to share the cost of the assessment appeal, which was estimated at $150,000, including Red Deer County’s earlier expenses.

The county will pay 20 per cent of costs up to $30,000.

Red Deer County passed a similar motion on Tuesday. Also agreeing to share costs are the County of Wetaskiwin and the MD of Taber, which has agreed to up to $20,000 in funding.

 
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