By Justin Seward
Cypress County council had a lengthy discussion about the 20th percentile 2021 Taxation Mill Rate Philosophy at their April 7 meeting.
It was last October, that council was presented with information where the County should be in the form of taxation.
The assessor presented what the county would look like if they were to adapt the 20thpercentile like other municipalities in the province.
Council directed administration at the time to bring back two scenarios what would include what the 20thpercentile would look like in three and five-year situations.
Scenario A includes the mill rates over a three-year term.
Farm mill rates would see overall increase of 21.7 per cent, residential would remain the same, small business would see a 38. 7 increase, while a 49. 1 per cent would be applied to non-residential, machinery and equipment and linear.
Tax revenues between real property tax, machinery and equipment, linear, Federal PILT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes Program)provincial GIPOT (Grants in Places of Taxes) would see a total of $32,504,380 by 2023.
Over five years, the mill rate for farms would increase from .004226 currently to .005143 by 2025,
residential would remain at .002855, small business would increase from .004738 to .006575 by 2025, non-residential, machinery and equipment and linear would go from .005878 to .008766.
Farmland would see an 100 per cent increase, going from $638,006 to $1,276,012 by 2025.
Tax revenues, based on the same categories in the three-year scenario, would increase from over $22 million currently to over $32.5 million by 2025.
“I want to see us be able to provide affordable taxes, but with high value,” said Coun. Robin Kurpjuweit
“And I believe that we can achieve that with this approach, but we need that to make sure our residents understand where we’re going with this and then we need to start spending some of this money within our community—get some of these projects going. Because if we’re even considering doing this without considering spending an additional $6 million a year—building projects, getting things happening, getting some excitement in our community—and actually leveraging the opportunity that we’ve benefited from for the last 30 years, then we’re in for a lot of phone calls from angry people. But if we can provide the value and they understand why it is that we’re looking at what we’re doing, I think we’re going to have a lot more people on board with the approach to this.”
Kurpjuweit leaned towards the percentile applying to everybody the same way.
“I do understand the desire of some council members that want to see more contribution,” he said.
“But I don’t think that it’s worth losing the principle of having a fair approach to how we tax in order to gain an additional $400,000—to me it’s not worth it. I think it’s better off for us to look at it as at the 20th percentile, we recognize that we would generate an addition of $8 to $10 million a year in five years from now. There’s strategic investment that should be encouraged in order to bring value, that can hopefully see the value of the agriculture land that is out there that would then warrant additional rates.”
While Deputy Reeve Richard Oster agreed with Kurpjuweit’s comment about basing the same percentile for everybody, he thinks council is not taking into consideration is that farmland has not changed in assessment for 35 years and everything else has.
“We’re not doing the same increases because there’s been an industry that has for the lack of better words, been protected for a lot of years,” said Oster.
“The times coming … We’re going to the 20thpercentile on linear on everything, so have we accounted for in this discussion that the fact that there might be a whole lot of gas wells that are going to get closed in, what about oil, that might get closed in too. So, you can increase everything that you want in the one area, but if they don’t step up to it and they decide they want to close things down, that’s fine. You cannot in my mind forget about the one area that has not seen changes for 35 years.”
Kurpujweit felt as though the County has benefitted from for 30 years is a rich resource sector that has subsidized what the county does.
“When we’re budgeting, we also think surplus is bad,” he said.
“But when you’re a business environment, surplus is good. Now you don’t want to do it on the backs of your rate payers. But if you look at having a business unit like a resource sector, we’re at $5 billion worth of assets. We’re ranked in the 87th percentile, which is one of the richest municipalities in the province for actual asset in the ground. Yet, our tax rates are among some of the lowest. That to me is a recipe that basically says for a very long time we’ve left a lot of money on the table.”
Kurpjuweit made the motion that council direct Administration to prepare the 2021 budget based on the 20th percentile taxation mill rate philosophy.