Thursday, May 1, 2014

Notes From The Mayor's Desk: May 2014

Taxes - How do we compare?
In the lead up to the last election, and in many conversations I have heard around town, the subject of taxes is a hot topic.  As Council was preparing to set the tax rate for this year we were presented with the following community comparisons from 2013:
Assessed Value (residential)
Three Hills
Average Tax (Sundre Excluded) $2,735.36 .

Average Tax (Sundre included) $2,696.98 .

As you can see, we aren't the highest or the lowest in these comparisons.  If we took other comparisons we would find differences.  Each community has different circumstances, facilities, expectations of residents, growth rates, economic climate, support industries, and other factors that have to be considered when setting the tax rate.
We have so much to be grateful for in our community.  We have an outstanding volunteer fire department that can quickly respond to emergencies.  We have an RCMP Detachment and our own Bylaw Enforcement Officer to help keep us safe.  We have a hospital and medical clinics to attend to our health needs and we have great schools.  These are the building blocks of every community - emergency services, safety, health care and education - most of which are paid for by income tax, not property tax (except fire protection).
We love our parks, playgrounds, trail system, recreation facilities and library.  We expect grass to be cut, garbage to be removed, compost and recycling, and snow to be cleared.  We expect water to be clean, toilets to work, pavement to be maintained, sidewalks to be free from breaks and heaves, and we expect that laws and regulations for our safety will be followed in our municipality.  We don't really know about the underground pipes and pumps and all the details that have to be attended to so that everything works but we trust that things are being looked after.  We are OK with growth & development and a local Council making decisions, as long as we have a say and are kept informed.  We expect plans for the future and don't want big unanticipated jumps in our taxes because of poor planning or not attending to detail.  All those things have a price tag and those are some of the things your taxes pay for.
For those of you that like numbers, Council passed a budget calling for a 2.94% increase to residential property, a 1.59% increase to commercial property and a 3.23 % decrease to vacant commercial property.  The goal is always to keep taxes as low as possible and still provide for services expected.  The operating budget for the year is $2,816,901.  A 1% increase in taxes generates about $26,000.  Residential taxes account for about 70% of revenue with commercial paying about 30%.  A year ago that split was 80%/20%.  We need more commercial development to help keep residential tax rates down.  Council wants to be sure we have attractive tax rates for both residential and businesses so we can have a more balanced residential/commercial split to pay for services.
Taxation is a little complicated.  To simplify, we want to be sure we offer the best services for the taxes you pay.  We also have to continually look for more efficient ways to provide those services - just like any business.  Please give me a call at home (403-638-3535) if you would like to talk more about taxes and services.

Mayor Terry Leslie

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