Ponoka County will soon have to absorb the loss of more than $660,000 in property taxes due to energy companies going under, while working to collect another $3 million in 2019 overdue taxes. Canadian Press photo

Ponoka County struck by large amount of unpaid property taxes

CAO now has some discretion in cancelling certain tax penalties

It’s not just the oil and gas sector that is having trouble paying its taxes to Ponoka County.

At the end of October, the county was owed $3.7 million in taxes, out of the almost $26 million it expects to collect. Of the outstanding taxes, $974,000 is mostly from residential and farmland properties.

“What is disturbing is almost a million in residential and farmland,” said Coun. Doug Weir recently.

“It’s an indication of the way things are going for people,” chief administrative officer Charlie Cutforth added.

“In a normal year, typically, our outstanding taxes is around $300,000 to $400,000.”

The remaining $2.7 million in taxes is from oil and gas. Of that, about $660,000 will be written off at the end of 2019 due to the bankruptcy of an energy company, while another $330,000 is in limbo as another energy company has sought protection from creditors.

“And there is, sad to say, no recourse if they are bankrupt,” Cutforth said of the energy operators. “If a farmer doesn’t pay his taxes, the county can eventually take the land.”

Penalties and costs for unpaid taxes have hit an unprecedented $436,000 — more than double the $200,000 budgeted.

Cutforth has received permission to use his discretion and cancel some of these penalties.

“We’ve had a number of payments made after the June 30 deadline, and in some cases, someone is a couple of days late, or has property in both the county and town and they pay both at the same time, though the town’s deadline is later,” he said.

“We have no real interest in penalizing people that want to pay or nicking people that are having trouble.”

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