Budget 2021

Zero per cent tax increase, says town council

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Slave Lake town council gave the thumbs up to the 2021 operating and capital budgets at its March 16 meeting. The budgets contain a lot of details, but let’s get right to the bottom line:

“Zero per cent tax increase,” said director of finance Roland Schmidt, presenting the report for council. “Utility rates also no increase.”

It should be noted that the zero per cent tax increase does not necessarily mean every property will see exactly the same tax levy as last year. What it does mean is the town is collecting the same total amount – what council, advised by town staff, has determined is needed to pay all the bills through the year.

Each property owner’s share of that total is calculated by the mill rate multiplied by the assessed value of a person’s property.

The role of property value assessment is apparently a cause of some concern and confusion. It is even for a long-time council member who works in real estate. Councillor Julie Brandle, commenting on the situation, said it has long been a cause of frustration for her that the property values the assessor comes up with seem so different than the values experienced by realtors.

But as mayor Warman said, the town has to rely on a professional property value assessor.

“They have a formula they have to use,” he said. “It’s created by the province and is standard for the whole province.”

Warman commended town administration for finding ways to reduce expenses to match the loss in revenue due to town facilities being closed for so much of 2020.

“My hope is those facilities are going to run (this year),” he said, “with people in them and (generating) revenue.”

Government support was also a big help in surviving the pandemic year, Warman added. It is uncertain whether that will continue in 2021, or to what degree.

Looking forward, Warman said he thinks the budgeting process for the town is in pretty good shape, and sets up the new council (to be elected in October) for success, “so they’re not heading into a black hole they’re going to have to figure out.”

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