Voters in Donalda and Gadsby will soon get to vote on whether their tiny communities should be dissolved into the surrounding county.
The non-binding votes on March 30 and 31 have been called by Alberta Municipal Affairs to help Minister Hector Goudreau decide on the fate of the municipalities. The province recently completed dissolution studies for the two communities.
Before residents cast their ballots, information meetings will be held a week earlier to present the cases for and against dissolution.
Fred Entwisle, mayor for Gadsby and its 28 residents, said most were opposed to dissolution at first but the dissolution study suggests there could be huge property tax savings by joining the County of Stettler.
An average household could see its property taxes plummet to $231 a year from $1,380 if the county takes over, according to the study. Mill rates — the amount charged per $1,000 of assessment — would drop to 6.2 from 37.35.
“It’s a huge difference,” said Entwisle. “I don’t know why such a difference. Lots of people in the county tell me they don’t pay that little in taxes.”
“Everybody’s anxious to have this (information) meeting on the 24th to see what exactly is true or not.”
To complicate the situation, there could be additional costs involved with dissolving. The community now hauls away sewage from septic systems for $30 per household. But the last time a private contractor’s rates were checked out the price was $260 a load.
Entwisle said he was firmly against dissolution earlier, but is not so now.
“I’m not sure myself which way I’m going to vote at this point.”
In Donalda, the dissolution report also suggests significant property tax advantages with dissolution. The owner of property assessed at $180,900 paid $1,990 in taxes last year. The same property owner would face a $1,130 tax bill under the county.
Village chief administrative officer Peter Simons said straight comparisons can be deceptive.
“Really, the big question I always think for residents is, it’s really not necessarily what you pay, it’s what you get as well,” said Simons.
“The question is: will there be a difference in services? I don’t know. That’s something people would have to come and make a decision on themselves.”
Municipal Affairs spokesman Jerry Ward said it typically takes about three months following a vote before a decision is made. The minister will make a recommendation to cabinet, which has final approval.
Besides the information meeting and vote, Municipal Affairs will consult with councils and administrations in both municipalities.
The meeting in Donalda takes place March 23 at the Donalda Community Hall from 7 p.m. The dissolution vote takes place at the Donalda Coulee Friendship Centre on March 30 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Gadsby information meeting takes place March 24 at the Gadsby Bank Building from 7 p.m. The vote will be held at the same place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.