Increased assessment good news for town taxpayers

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Most High Prairie homeowners may be looking forward to a minimal increase in taxes, and even possibly a decrease, in 2019.

A 10 per cent increase in overall assessment [or about $30 million] has resulted in additional cash for town coffers.

The news prompted council to give first reading to its 2019 tax bylaw April 9 with only a one per cent increase in the mill rate. Second and third readings to pass the bylaw will be debated at a later meeting and subject to change.

Because of the increased overall assessment, some bills may actually decrease, says treasurer Terri Wiebe. Residential assessment has decreased, so even with the proposed one per cent mill rate increase, some will still be paying less.

Council heard the news that assessment rose to $331 million, up from $301 million in 2018. Most of the increase is from West Fraser’s expansion and upgrading that was completed in 2018.

Wiebe added there are also more taxpayers in town in 2019, thereby lessening the bill since there are more people to collect from.

“That’s a pleasant place to be for a change,” said Mayor Brian Panasiuk.

Only Councillor Brian Gilroy voted against the proposed mill rate increase. He stuck to his guns in opposing a mill rate increase since council is set to raise utility rates in the coming months.

“In my integrity, I cannot raise both utilities and taxes [in the same year] to a hurting group,” said Gilroy.

Council heard even a zero per cent mill rate increase would still allow council to cover its costs.

However, Councillor Donna Deynaka worried about not increasing the mill rate. She did not want to have no increase this year, and perhaps a “five to six per cent increase” next year.

Wiebe agreed, saying it was best to raise the mill rate a bit each year rather than no increase one year and a huge increase the next.

“I’d rather pay no tax but we have to,” said Councillor Arlen Quartly. He sided with Deynaka’s and Wiebe’s cautious approach.

“It pains me to say that but it’s the sensible thing to do.”

Even with a zero per cent mill rate increase, council was still able to give $45,000 extra to the recreation department, $45,000 extra to the museum and $15,000 extra to the library in 2019.

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