So more info on taxes.
I have done quite a few blogs on taxes and feel free to access our Town website to take a look at some of those previous ones. I had a lot of questions about assessment this weekend so I thought I would share some info in regards to how the assessments work.
So as I have explained previously your tax bills are made up of three components. The first is the municipal portion, the second is the educational requisition, and the third is the seniors’ portion.
So first off is the municipal portion, this is what your council spent 90 hours on and found savings to reduce the mill rate. The unfortunate piece is just as it was finalized the Provincial Government decided they would share a new budget that had some impacts; I will explain that in a little more detail later. You have received a tax notice and the amount you pay is based upon the assessed value of your property. You then pay taxes accordingly. The Province owns property too; however, they don’t pay taxes. Instead they give us a grant for the amount the taxes would be. This year the government decided they are not paying this grant anymore and it cost us $110,000.
With the budget done, there is little for us to do but turn this over to the tax payer to fund and as a result the decrease to the mill rate was still a decrease just not as much. Personally we are not too impressed by this and Municipalities across the province are lobbying to the Provincial government about this issue. I have also brought it up with our MLA-elect (Danielle Larivee) and we will see where it goes.
The next portion is in regards to the educational tax. The province essentially decides on a number and they ask us to collect on their behalf and pay them. We have no control over that number. This amount though is based on equalized assessment which is a complex formula, and as I have no control over it, and I have not spent a lot of time looking at it. The piece to note is that we had an increase in what the province wanted us to collect.
Lastly there is also the senior’s portion. A budget is create by the Housing Authority which is a board that consists of representatives from the public, the Metis Association, MD of Opportunity, MD #124 and the Town of Slave Lake. This board, in conjunction with the province decides what they want the Town to collect and then we collect it much like education. As the Town we can influence this somewhat as we have 2 out of 7 board members, but in the end it is its own stand-alone organization.
So now assessment, you are taxed on what your assessment is (the fair market value). Who does the assessment? Every municipality hires a third party independent group to do this. They are paid a fixed rate so the amount of assessment has nothing to do with how they are paid as I have heard that rumor. I have also heard “the market has dropped” my house isn’t worth this. That would be true if assessment was based on what your property is worth today, but it’s not. The assessment is not a quick process and the provincial government sets guidelines on how assessment is done so it is consistent across the province. This year’s assessment is based on the value of your property on July 1, 2014 in the condition it was in December 31, 2013.
So in English this means you are paying taxes in 2015 based on what existed on your property Dec 31, 2013 at the value it was worth on July 1, 2014. So, if you think property values have gone down the word on the street is your right, but we won’t see that decrease until 2016 because we are always a year behind. The other point is you may have built a garage last year but it won’t actually be on your assessment until next year because it is based on the condition of your property on December 31, 2013. If you don’t like this process that’s a concern for the Province as this is how it is and has been done for years.
Still not happy? Give our assessor a call at 1-888-419-2128 and discuss your issues with your assessment. If they don’t answer your questions there is also a formal appeal process but will cost time and money. This is not meant to discourage you, just giving you all the information. I’m not sure if this clears it all up, it’s a lot of information to throw into 800 words. In the end it costs money to run the town and those costs rise every year. 2016 will be another tough budget process with hard decisions to make. As always we will look for feedback from residents to try and determine for the group (not the individual) what Is needed and necessary, what are nice to have’s and what we can afford.