October 29th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 42
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Council says ‘no new taxes’ for 2015
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Stock photo
Crowsnest Pass Municipal Council
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
With citizens paying higher taxes, wages and franchise fees, council is looking to avoid increasing the tax rate next year.
But that might change if it’s decided to increase funding for capital projects or hire new personnel.
“I’m trying to drive the argument for a zero per cent tax increase,” said Councillor Dean Ward. “That is my position as it is all of council’s position at this point in time.”
Despite a shrinking population, the municipality collected about 23 per cent more property taxes in 2014 than it did in 2007, which means fewer individuals are paying more taxes.
Financial statements show that the municipality collected almost $6.8 million in property taxes in 2014 compared to about $5.5 million in 2007.
According to the Bank of Canada’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) from 2000 to present, the cost of living increased 15 per cent between 2007 and 2014, which means the tax increase more than covered inflation.
In addition to more property taxes, the municipality is also collecting more franchise fees than ever before.
A provincial act has given municipalities the power to collect franchise fees on gas and power utilities. Each municipality sets its own fee. The municipality enacted the fees in 2008 when it collected about $200,000 but in 2014 the municipality collected about $700,000, said Ward.
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Additional franchise fees and property taxes put an additional $2 million into municipal coffers in 2014 compared to 2007, he said.
“There’s lots of additional revenue coming in,” said Ward.
While the numbers show the municipality has been collecting an increasing amount of revenue, it has also been paying out more in wages, salaries and benefits.
Financial statements show that municipal employees earned a total of about $4 million in 2007 compared to about $5.6 million in 2014; an increase of about 43 per cent.
On Sept. 2, CAO Sheldon Steinke told the Pass Herald that the community only has one fulltime bylaw enforcement officer.
Steinke said the officer spends 60 per cent of his time on bylaw enforcement and 40 per cent of his time on traffic enforcement. The schedule was a budgetary decision made after the municipality lost a Peace Officer.
Council could increase enforcement if it decides to hire another officer but Ward said he would oppose hiring more personnel.
“I don’t believe we should be hiring more people. We have a substantial workforce right now and if we need to do different things with that workforce then that’s something administration has to figure out,” said Ward. “The municipality is growing. That’s our single biggest cost, is wages.”
On Oct. 16, council and administration began the 2015 budget process. Next year’s tax rate will be calculated using the mill rate, which is set by the municipality, and the assessed value of a taxpayer’s property.
Both the mill rate and the assessed value of property can go up or down. In 2013, council approved a mill rate increase of 3.8 per cent, which allowed for a $193,000 budget reduction.
Council’s next budget meeting is on Nov. 6. The entire budget process is open to the public.
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October 29th ~ Vol. 84 No. 42
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