Faced with widespread opposition from manufactured home parks and their residents, Red Deer County has dropped a proposal to change the way taxes are collected.
County council unanimously rejected bylaw changes on Tuesday that would have made it the responsibility of manufactured home park owners and managers to collect property taxes.
The change was proposed by county staff to reduce some of the administrative burden of collecting taxes from each manufactured homeowner. About 400 manufactured homeowners in Kountry Meadows, Melody Meadows, South Park, Spruce View and Waskasoo Estates would have been affected.
A huge wave of protest greeted the proposal. The county got more than 250 letters and petitions in opposition, and residents criticized the plan in a pair of public meetings.
Waskasoo Estates Tenants Association president Doug Kemp told council on Tuesday many residents in the community just north of Gasoline Alley are on fixed incomes and concerned that park owners will have to pass on tax collection costs, increasing monthly rents.
“Costs have to be passed on and that’s what the individual homeowners are worried about,” Kemp told council.
Kemp said it was also unfair to expect manufactured home park owners to collect taxes for the county.
“It’s the county’s responsibility to collect that tax and not pass that responsibility onto a third party.”
Linda Withers lives in Kountry Meadows Estates in Benalto and was worried how taxes would be determined by the park owner and what impact it would have on rents.
If the owner decided to tax all properties the same regardless of the age and size of the manufactured home that could have a big impact on owners of more modest homes, many of whom are on fixed incomes.
“This could jeopardize some homeowners’ ability to stay in their own house. I am one of those people,” said Withers, one of 85 people in the 122-lot community to sign a petition against the change.
Kountry Meadows resident William Richardson said he always pays his taxes and if the county has trouble collecting from some property owners it should look at other ways to make them pay up.
“I don’t like the idea of someone else paying my taxes,” he said. “I just hope you will reconsider and treat us like normal people.”
County Mayor Jim Wood and councillors said residents had made it clear where they stood.
Wood said a flaw in the county’s proposal to shift tax collection was that park owners would have to pick up the cost, which would be passed on to homeowners.
“They need to make money and they’re going to recoup their costs,” said Wood.
The mayor asked staff how big a problem unpaid manufactured home park taxes are. About $7,200 was outstanding in 2021, although the county has also had challenges sorting out who owns a property at times following a sale, he was told.
Wood also expressed concern that Les’s Trailer Park, which began collecting taxes from its residents in 2009, is now not in line with all other county home parks.
Coun. Christine Moore said making park owners collect taxes amounted to a downloading of municipal responsibility, a complaint municipalities frequently make about provincial government moves.
Taking away the right of some property owners to pay their own taxes threatened to create a “two-class system,” she added. “It would be in my opinion morally wrong to pass this bylaw today.
“These ratepayers deserve the same rights and privileges of any other ratepayers in Red Deer County.”
Coun. Lonny Kennett said often council does not hear concerns but in this case, residents sent their message “loud and clear”.
“There was no support for this and I think that is why we moved to vote it down.”
Following the meeting, Kemp was pleased that residents’ voices were heard.
“The main thing is the council listened. They heard what people had to say and they acted on it and they did what they felt was best for the vast majority of people,” he said. “So, give them full credit, they weren’t afraid to realize the proposal was in error.
“Good for them. I’m quite happy with that.”