Rocky View County (RVC) councillors debated a newly proposed policy at the Nov. 14 meeting that could influence how municipal taxes are collected in the future.
The “Municipal Tax Ratio Policy” provided council with a “strategic direction on the long-term viability of the County through maintenance of a balanced tax ratio.”
The point of the tax ratio is to more evenly distribute the tax burden between residential and non-residential assessment classes, according to the report provided to council.
Since 2009, non-residential properties have been taxed at three times the rate of residential properties, even though the total of non-residential properties is two times smaller than their residential counterparts.
The taxes collected by the County from non-residential properties have accounted for 59 per cent of the total municipal tax collected in the county, even though they’re far outnumbered by residential properties. This unbalanced ratio is what the County hopes will be fixed by the new policy.
“What we’ve attempted to do is to codify how and why we want to split those rations between residential and non-residential,” said Kent Robinson, the executive director of the County’s Corporate Services Division.
On an annual basis, the County would implement a yet to be decided ratio that will hopefully balance the tax responsibility more evenly among residential and non-residential and bring the percentage of municipal tax collected from non-residential properties back down to an even 50 per cent.
However, some on council were skeptical of the policy’s ability to permanently even out the tax collecting playing field.
“If we put this policy into place, could there not be some pressure from the non-residential community to lower [their] rate?” asked Division 4 Coun. Samanntha Wright. “[That] puts the burden on residential tax payers, which is exactly what we’re not trying to do.”
Robinson responded by saying that it would ultimately be council’s decision and prerogative to change the tax rate or not. However, he did add that, “taxing the non-residential assessment class at a higher rate is quite common in municipalities.”
Council looked to be largely in support of the policy for adoption, except for Wright, who expressed her concerns.
“I do think this is a good leaping off point but it does need a bit more work,” she said. “I recognize that my colleagues think this will go ahead, and believe that it should go ahead, but I will not be in support at this time.”
The rest of council voted in support of the policy and it passed by a vote of 6-1.