Councillor stirs things up on farmland taxation
Having passed the budget, it just remained for M.D. of Lesser Slave River council to approve the tax rate bylaw to set in motion the process of notifying property owners of their taxes. This was expected to be the formality it usually is, but councillor Brad Pearson had other ideas.
This happened at the council meeting held in Flatbush on April 11.
Pearson voted against the tax rate bylaw three times. With six councillors voting the other way it made no real difference, but he had a point he wanted to make. He elaborated on it by way of a prepared statement on what he sees as an “unsustainable disparity” between farmland assessment and everyone else’s.
“I’ll be voting against it,” he said, when reeve Kerik called for first reading of the bylaw. “The disparity between residential and farmland taxation levels is nowhere near the real world. It’s not fair.”
Pearson was referring to the assessed value of farmland, which is set by the province and is much lower, he says, than what a quarter section of farmland would actually sell for. However, the M.D. can raise the farmland mill rate somewhat to compensate, which Pearson was advocating. He pointed to the Westlock and Barrhead County farmland mill rates, which he said are both much higher than that of MDLSR.
Judging by the response around the table, Pearson sprung this objection on his colleagues without much or any warning. They were clearly a bit taken aback.
Responding first, councillor Sandra Melzer pointed out that residents in her area “don’t have town services.”
Councillor Robert Esau warned Pearson, “Be careful what you ask for.”
Councillor Jeff Commins told Pearson with everything already decided, it was far too late to be bringing up something like this now.
Pearson, however, did not plan to block the passage of the bylaw. He voted in favour of going to third reading, which allowed the matter to be settled without delay.
“I won’t be holding the game up,” he said. “I was tasked to bring it forward. We’d better start thinking about it.”