October 24th, 2020

No additional funds for residential tax relief


By Lethbridge Herald on April 20, 2020.

Herald file photo by Ian Martens - Mayor Chris Spearman speaks during a briefing last month at city hall. Spearman has learned the Province will not be providing any additional funds towards residential tax relief. @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com
If the City hopes to offer residents property tax relief during the COVID-19 crisis, it is pretty much on its own as the province will not be offering any additional funds to backstop municipal tax relief plans.
Mayor Chris Spearman spoke with provincial officials on these matters on April 16, who confirmed no further provincial dollars for residential tax relief will be forthcoming.
This severely limits what the City can do to help local residents and businesses looking for tax deferral help, explained Mayor Chris Spearman at Monday’s city council meeting.
“We were under the impression the government of Alberta might be assisting municipalities in some ways,” stated Spearman. “But it is only on the education portion of the property tax. They have cancelled their planned increase of the Education Property Tax, and they have allowed a deferral for non-residential customers only. That deferral would go until Oct. 1, but there is nothing else.
“So the balance of municipal taxes would have to either be levied as planned or else any deferrals would be at the expense to local taxpayers,” Spearman added. “If we incurred additional debt or we exercised our line of credit, and incurred additional costs, then those costs would be the responsibility of the municipality and we wouldn’t be compensated for those by the province.”
Referring to the recommendations of Lethbridge Region Economic Recovery Task Force from the April 6 council meeting, Spearman acknowledged this falls well short of what local residents and business leaders had hoped.
The Task Force, headed by the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Lethbridge, had said up to a third of local businesses might not survive the month if municipal, provincial or federal relief funding was not expedited.
Council will discuss its tax options and decide what to do at the Special Council Meeting on May 11. Spearman said likely late penalties on property taxes could be suspended until Oct. 1, and council would have to decide whether or not to go ahead with a planned tax increase of 1.86 per cent in this year’s budget.
“We are going to have to look carefully about what we might do, and there will be some motions coming forward such as deferral of penalties until after Oct. 1. In terms of any other deferrals, our options are quite limited due to the fact we have ongoing costs at the City,” he confirmed.
Spearman said any decisions on property tax relief would likely come with more debt incurred by the City and a greater debt burden local taxpayers going forward. That, he said, also must be kept in perspective when councillors are debating whether or not to suspend local property tax increases on May 11.
He admitted there were advocates in the community who have stated to councillors they feel there should be no local tax increases while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing.
“We have heard that concern,” Spearman acknowledged. “We hear that concern from businesses, and that will be part of the debate in two weeks.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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Resolute

Time to expand your options Mayor. Your preference for more debt is not anything I am in favor of. I suggest the following obvious solution to aid the city. Stop spending so much! At last report Lethbridge property taxes are the 2nd highest if any municipslity in Slberta and are nearly 2x those of Calgary. Without addressing the obscene utility bill taxes masquerading as “fees”! Cycle paths have negative value even if they were free so zero dollars there. Tourists do not come to Lethbridge to see Nikko Yuko, Galt Museum or any other City-supported facility so stop any tax monies going there for “tourist dollars”. People come to Lethbridge to see family, friends, do business or an overnight stop on a longer journey to, say, Waterton. Cease funding our dead airport and give it up to private parties with a vision – and do not hobble them with more City bureaucracy. Eliminate your huge number of discretionary property tax exemptions to places like the privately – owned SCD property. They are not within the intent of the exemption legislation and reduce legitimate City tax revenues! Eliminate the recycling MRF facility – it is purely a virtue-signalling tax money sink. Cease the City’s estimated $1M/yr funding of the SCS site, plus all the money spent covering up its consequences. Sell all City-owned development property – the City must not continue to compete with and control private devrlopers! That is pure socialism. Now this is just a start on cleaning up City spend. You are deep inside the bowels of the cash wasting machine and if you cannot come up with at least a 50% reduction in our City Operating Budget you are a worse Mayor than even I can imagine. Get after it!

Resolute

SCS not SCD. The editor function does not work properly.

buckwheat

Great insight resolute and excellent ideas.

Seth Anthony

Well said Resolute.

The waste, the virtue signaling, and the useless pet projects are astounding. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that it’s not their money. There’s no accountability and no way to fire them for 4 years. To add insult to injury, these despicable characteristics occur in most of the thousands of municipalities and cities across Canada, as well as at the provincial and federal level.

We need a true Democracy, and that would be Direct Democracy at the municipal and provincial level, and the abolition of the federal government. The only country that I know that has a true democracy (Direct Democracy) is Switzerland.

Anything less than Direct Democracy is at best, a controlled dictatorship, and at worst, a form of slavery.