Municipalities left guessing what province wants in school taxes

Provincial election disrupted usual budgeting schedule in Edmonton

Alberta municipalities are setting tax rates while being left in the dark about how much they need to collect in tariffs on behalf of the provincial government.

The recent election interfered with provincial budgeting, so the amount of education taxes needed has not been determined.

That leaves municipalities guessing at how much they need to collect on behalf of the province.

In Lacombe, council considered several options earlier this week.

Senior financial services manager Justin de Bresser said administration considered, but rejected, collecting the same amount as last year.

“We decided against that, based on that it could compound the problem if rates do go up in 2019,” de Bresser told council. “It would compound the increase in 2020.”

The risk was that if, when the requisition numbers finally come in, the province boosts its take for 2019, the city could face a double whammy next year.

De Bresser said rather than come in low, staff estimated the school requisition based on historical averages.

Using that model, the city allowed for a six per cent increase in residential school taxes and eight per cent for non-residential properties.

The city collects about $20 million annually in education taxes for the province.

Red Deer County assistant county manager Ric Henderson said municipalities are not expecting to hear what the school requisition will be before tax notices must go out.

“I am pretty sure we won’t see that for a couple of months, by the time the government gets into the swing of things and gets organized.”

Red Deer County plans to go with the 2018 numbers and will adjust them later if needed.

“We have no idea what they’re going to do. So we’re just going to leave it as is from last year. It should be comparable.”

It’s not the first time this has happened. He has been told that the school requisition was not known as late as September on an occasion in the past.

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