Proposal to pay more ---Municipal property tax increase heading to council for a vote

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If you live in Grande Prairie, it could cost you a little more after Grande Prairie City Council meets next Monday.

At its Tuesday morning meeting, Corporate Services Committee recommended council deal with several tax bylaws.

The average residential taxpayer will probably be hit with an extra $86 on this year’s tax bill, or 2.25 per cent increase.

Scott Smith, Assessment / Taxation Manager at the City of Grande Prairie, said the increase is attributable in part because of events in 2019 and 2020 that ended up being reflected this year. Smith explained that in 2019 municipalities had to estimate the educational portion of the municipal taxes because the provincial election resulted in the province not having the detailed requisition in place.

“Once the provincial budget was finally tabled in the fall of 2019, and Grande Prairie received its education requisition, it was determined we had over-levied the education requisition by approximately $1.14 million,” Smith told the Corporate Services Committee. “That amount was credited back as a one-time credit to property owners in 2020.”

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“In March 2020, we, of course, began to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and for the 2020 tax year, council requested that administration create a zero-per cent tax increase for 2020, instead of the approved 1.25 per cent increase.

“Last year , council approved using the Financial Stabilization Reserve Fund to make up the shortfall on a one-time basis, which resulted in taxpayers getting a 1.25 per cent rebate on their tax bills last year.

The result was that the money credited back to taxpayers for the 2019 educational portion overcharge and the 1.25 per cent COVID-relief rebate would impact 2021 tax bills.

“Besides those rebates being removed, 2021 education tax levy is also increasing (by approximately three per cent),” Smith explained. “Now, when combined with the credit that was received in 2020, the city will be collecting approximately seven per cent more in education tax funds from property owners in 2021.

“Removing the 1.25 per cent COVID rebate, removing the education tax credit and accounting for the education tax increase will cause an overall tax increase for the average taxpayer. For a residential property that has decreased by an approximate 1.7 per cent in assessment, the overall tax levy will increase by 2.25 per cent, which is approximately an $86 increase when compared to 2020.”

Smith explained of the $86 increase, approximately $38 would be attributed to the COVID rebate while $48 would be attributed to the education portion of taxes.

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Residential assessments are down by approximately 1.7 per cent, while the overall commercial property assessment is down more than six per cent.

This year’s tax notices will be sent out at the end of next month or early June and are due August 31.

Taking into account both commercial properties that are seeing a tax increase and those whose taxes will decrease, Smith estimated the overall average for non-residential properties would also be in the be two per cent range.

Grande Prairie City Council will be dealing with the tax bylaws at its regular meeting on Monday after the committee approved a motion that council give all three readings to both the Property Tax bylaw and the Tax Penalty Relief in 2021 bylaw.

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