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Property tax rate set for Lacombe

 Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe

Property owners in Lacombe can expect the 3.26 per cent increase to property tax approved as part of budget deliberations in December to remain unchanged.

Council approved amendments to the 2017 Operating Budget during their regular meeting on Monday, and gave first and second reading to the property tax bylaw which maintains the 3.26 per cent increase.

City of Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie said it’s the first year in over a decade where the rate hasn’t dropped following the release of federal, provincial budgets and assessments.

“Usually we have some good cheer come through those processes where we recognize a bit more revenue and by the time we set our tax rate we get to drop it a little bit,” he said.

“This is the first year since 2004 that it hasn’t happened that way. Our supplementary assessments have gone down. We were caught in the lurch.”

Residential growth was lower than forecasted, seeing a decrease of 0.34 per cent compared to a forecasted increase of 1.09 per cent. Non-residential growth, meanwhile, was only 2.69 per cent compared to the forecasted 3.97 per cent. This resulted in a shortfall of $195,000 in the 2017 Operating Budget.

The reduction in revenue has been offset through reductions in program spending and updates to other revenue forecasts. In order to consider bringing the tax rate down further, however, Christie said the City would have to explore service level cuts.

“People didn’t want to see the service level change, in fact, they ask for more,” he said, adding cuts would impact facility maintenance, grass mowing, snow plowing, among others. “Staff and departments have always run very lean here at the city and once again 2017 is going to be a very, very lean year for them.

“Things are costing more money, insurance is more money, fuel is more money, therefore the city pays more money as well.”

During budget deliberations last year, council brought down what was originally a 4.3 per cent increase down to 3.28 per cent last year partly by agreeing to eliminate intern positions for the year. The number was dropped down further to 3.26 per cent after council voted in favour of foregoing their own cost of living adjustment.

Some factors, however, are beyond the city’s control.

On top of the tax rate increase, ratepayers will also see an increase in school requisition, which is collected by the city on behalf of the province. The increase will bump the overall increase to 4.92 per cent, meaning a house assessed at $281,000 will pay an extra $134, of which $59 is school tax requisition.

Commercial properties will see an overall increase of 3.49 per cent, or $310 on a property assessed at $783,000, with $70 taken for the school tax requisition.

Coun. Peter Bouwsema said it was disappointing to have to accept the reality of lower than expected assessment, while Coun. Wayne Armishaw said it was a tough pill to swallow. Coun. Konnik echoed their sentiments.

“I think it’s the first year where our supplementary assessment hasn’t been positive,” Konnik said. “I was hoping for the opposite and we could drop it another two per cent but unfortunately it didn’t pan out this year.

“I know there’s a suggestion out there that we don’t take this seriously. We do take this seriously... We don’t look forward to raising taxes because we all pay them.”

Tax notices will be in the mail by the end of the month. The deadline to pay without penalty is June 30, 2017. 

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