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April 9th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 15
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On Peanuts and Taxes
John Pundyk - Feature Writer
"Life is like a candy bar. We're paying more, but they're getting shorter” says Charlie Brown.
At the risk of sounding like the teacher in a Peanuts Comic Strip, I am, once again, writing about municipal taxes.
One thing has been constant for the past few years - our taxes keep going up. There are good reasons for this rise, such as inflation and all other rising costs.
There are also very common excuses for taxes going up. We hear taxes are going up because the previous government did nothing, so everything needs to be done. Or, we hear the last government did too much, leaving the cupboards bare.
For the simple taxpayer, it doesn’t matter which explanation is right, all they know is “the candy bar is getting shorter and it costs more.”
On a positive note, we are fortunate to have found, locally, an experienced administrator who can provide stability during this time of transition in our municipal office.
But taxes are still going up, and this is too bad, because no matter what anyone says, our taxes are too high.
As residents, we need to be informed about the budget process and voice our concerns and ideas to our elected officials. If we don’t do this, we leave the field wide open to experts who show up in front of our council with good and bad ideas.
Taxes go up not because the value of a home goes up or down. Taxes go up because our municipality needs more money this year, than last year, to fund its operations.
There are two distinct elements which are part of how the municipality collects its money. One is called the “assessment,” the other is called the “mill rate.”
The mill rate is the number which is used to multiply by our assessed home value in order to raise the amount of money needed to run our municipality.
So if our assessed values fall by two percent, the mill rate will need to be raised by two per cent just to raise the same amount of funds we had last year.

Now, if the values decrease evenly by two per cent for everyone, then the situation would be straight forward, but this seldom happens.
In Crowsnest Pass our assessment is dominated by a large number of older homes which influence how the mill rate is set.
Unfortunately, in the past few years, the value of these homes and the land on which they sit has been falling. Therefore, our mill rate has been adjusted annually just to recapture the same amount of tax dollars from these homes.
Any rise in taxes is added to the top of this initial mill rate adjustment. Therefore, if your home decreased by 2 or more percent, the coming 3 percent increase will not be so bad. On the other hand, if your property has not decreased as much, the 3 percent overall increase will hit you, as a homeowner, harder.
Regrettably, as the value of older homes has been falling, the cost of building new homes has been rising. This being Alberta, the price of materials and labour is calculated and charged not only by what is going on here, but also by what is going on in the rest of the province.
Therefore, if one wants to build a new family home in Crowsnest Pass, this home will cost roughly the same to construct as anywhere else in our province.
Sometimes I hear our mill rate is not too bad when compared to other towns our size. While this may be true, knowing this is not very helpful without probing deeper into this subject.
A better way to compare mill rates is to compare the amount of tax dollars similar types of homes pay in different communities. This is how most people who are looking to move here think, and we should start considering this as well.
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April 9th ~ Vol. 84 No. 15
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