South Peace News
A $266.03 tax penalty was tossed into the garbage heap by High Prairie town council for a Drayton Valley woman who paid her taxes late.
In reaching its decision July 12, many councillors were quick to blame Canada Post for the late payment.
Mary MacKenzie wrote council July 5 explaining her side of the story. She said she mailed a cheque June 20 but the town’s tax department did not receive it until July 5. As a result, the $266.03 penalty was applied.
“Please reconsider reversing this fee of $266.03 as we are seniors and live on a controlled budget,” she wrote.
“When I was reading her letter it made a lot of sense,” said Councillor Brian Gilroy in opening debate.
CAO Brian Martinson warned council if they forgave the penalty and set a precedent, there would be more residents asking for tax forgiveness. Later, he added “five or six more” were coming.
Treasurer Terri Wiebe, and the rest of council, did not dispute the letter was mailed June 20. However, town staff could not read the date stamp on the letter.
“It’s not our fault Canada Post can’t get a letter to us in 10 days,” said Mayor Linda Cox.
Rose used that point for her argument in forgiving the penalty.
“So that’s even more proof that she diligently tried,” she said.
Councillor Donna Deynaka added there were other services provided by Canada Post to ensure quicker arrival of letters.
“I know what you’re saying about precedent but one can use common sense,” said Councillor Brian Panasiuk.
Martinson added he looked up the payments made and MacKenzie was never late paying her tax bill since 2011.
Gilroy realized the federal government would not forgive penalties if you were late paying and admitted he was “waffling” on the matter.
The motion passed with Cox and Deynaka voting against. Councillor Michael Long was absent.