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September 23, 2020 September 23, 2020

Municipalities joining together to oppose assessment changes

Posted on September 9, 2020 by Taber Times
TIMES FILE PHOTO

The Alberta government’s proposed changes to the assessment model, which hasn’t been updated since 2005, have rightfully been protested by the majority of municipal governments in the area.

After the M.D. of Taber brought forward the potential issues these changes would make within their municipality in a closed session special meeting in the early part of summer, they have been advocating with local MLAs and municipalities to join them in lobbying.

The M.D. estimates a huge loss of revenue between $3.1-$4.1 million if the changes go through and that isn’t counting the financial burden of the policing model that will also eat a chunk of budgets of municipalities in the area.

After M.D. councillors had meetings with the Town of Taber, Town of Vauxhall and the Village of Barnwell, Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter has also come out in opposition of the assessment changes saying in an interview with the Times “that I’m advocating to the new minister, Minister Allard (Minister of Municipal Affairs), that we don’t proceed with these now, and my rationale for that is because I think with the new policing model and the cost of COVID, and a few other things that municipalities have had to bear the brunt of, I think that this is just not the right time. Now obviously I’m just one voice in our caucus and cabinet, and so the minister will have to make the final decision, but I’m advocating that we not do it at this time.”

The problem with all of these changes is unloading the oil/gas sector’s issues onto the backs of municipalities which in turn greatly affects residents as their taxes will increase to make up that shortfall.

On top of that, services within these municipalities will also be diminished due to budgets needing to be cutback with millions less coming in.
The M.D. has been struggling for years to get oil/gas producers to pay their lease payments and now in order to help this same industry, municipalities and taxpayers are supposed to foot the bill to help get the industry back on their feet?

There haven’t been any updates in any policy that forces oil/gas companies to pay their taxes and yet the UCP are looking to update the assessment model.

It sure seems municipalities are bearing the brunt while oil/gas gets to skate on paying their taxes and then also gets propped up from those same municipalities.

Another issue here is the UCP’s insistence that oil and gas will get back to a level more akin to the distant past than more recent numbers have shown.

Their released budgets since taking over from the NDP have been heavily reliant on pipelines getting completed in order to balance the budget.

But it’s been year after year of oil and gas continuing to drop, so it’s hard to see oil and gas getting back to what Albertans saw in the 90s and early 2000s anytime soon, if ever.

“Basically (Rural Municipalities of Alberta) are asking to go back to the drawing board because assessment is not the way to be trying to fix short term issues. Assessment should be fair and equitable for everyone,” said M.D. Coun. Brian Brewin at a recent Town of Vauxhall meeting.

Town of Vauxhall council also was vocal in their support of lobbying the potential changes during their talk with the M.D.

The good news moving forward is the M.D. of Taber’s opposition of these changes has been making headway across Alberta, and with several other municipalities making similar pitches to their local MLAs, changes are not going to be coming very quickly.

No concrete dates as to when, and if, these changes will be made official have been announced so municipalities will no doubt continue to fight the new assessment model.

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