Council approves 1.5 % tax hike

It wasn’t easy to keep it at that low, but residents will see a tax increase of 1.5 per cent this year.

It wasn’t easy to keep it at that low, but residents will see a tax increase of 1.5 per cent this year.

Council approved the town’s 2016 budget Tuesday, April 26 during its regular meeting, which saw an increased overall assessment of $11 million.

The Town of Ponoka’s operating budget runs at $16 million while the capital portion runs at $10.3 million, explained Sandra Lund, director of corporate services.

A home valued at $300,000 is expected to see a $30 increase with a mill rate of 6.83. The commercial tax rate remains the same as in 2015 with a mill rate of 8.91.

Of the town’s $8.24 million property tax levy, $5.9 million goes to the municipality, $2.1 million goes to the province for the Alberta School Foundation Fund, $197,000 goes to St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic school division and $85,700 goes to the Rimoka Housing Foundation requisition.

Town’s audited statements

To help clarify the town’s 2015 audited financial statements was Gord Parker, of Rowland Parker and Associates. He told council that generally the town is in a strong financial position. The first debenture payments for the north bridge construction and road rehabilitation program is yet to be drawn on.

He estimates by 2018/19 older debenture payments will have been paid off, which will balance the difference of payments starting later this year.

“Your debt relative to your peers is still relatively strong,” said Parker of other municipalities in the area.

One question from Coun. Carla Prediger inquired about what administration and council need to be aware of. Parker replied that the biggest focus will need to be on spending. He said with a slow economy, provincial and federal governments are looking at challenging times.

“You’re going to have to decide, ‘What is our core?’” said Parker.

He added that while the town’s audited statements have a clean sheet, there are also two litigation proceedings that need to be acknowledged. Parker did not give specifics but said one proceeding is expected to be settled this year while the second one is undetermined.

Another area of focus Parker suggested is in tax arrears. Last year’s budget saw $219,831 in arrears compared to $234,911 in 2014. The town has the ability to exercise certain powers under the Municipal Government Act, which could recover tax arrears from residents who wait close to three years to pay.

Council passed three readings of the tax bylaw, approving the increase, to ensure residents get their taxes by the end of May. Coun. Tim Falkiner said he would like to see the tax bylaw come sooner as he is not in favour of voting three readings in one sitting.

Mayor Rick Bonnett said one of the reasons for the later request was due to council meeting with administration Monday, April 11 to keep the tax increase within the 1.5 per cent.