Big Lakes County freezes mill rates

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County is freezing mill rates in 2022.
At a special budget meeting April 20, council adopted a bylaw to set tax mill rates for municipal taxes.
Mill rates for residential and farmland remain the same at 4.727.
Rates for non-residential, machinery and equipment, as well as linear properties and power generation, remain at 15.456.
The freeze does not mean taxes will remain the same. Based on assessment, the tax bill will increase or decrease depending on property assessment compared to last year.
The previous council increased mill rates five per cent in 2021.
In making its decision, council agreed a tax increase would further hurt taxpayers still struggling financially from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m not crazy about a tax increase,” Kinuso Councillor Roberta Hunt said.
“People have been hit hard with COVID.”
North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Jim Zabolotniuk agreed.
“I’m for a no per cent increase.”
“We can’t ask taxpayers to pay more.”
He noted the previous council increased mill rates by five per cent last year.
Joussard Councillor Richard Mifflin suggested council increase mill rates for farmland, machinery and equipment, and linear properties and power generation.
“Oil companies are making more money so I’d like to see mill rates go up for linear and machinery and equipment,” Mifflin said.
South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart supported some of what Mifflin suggested.
“I would go for an increase in the linear mill rates,” she said.
Stewart did not support an increase in farmland, considering the increased costs and economic challenges in the agricultural industry.
“Farmers are hurting,” Stewart said.
CAO Jordan Panasiuk said residential and farmland mill rates are combined in one class and cannot have separate mill rates.
Interim director of corporate services Dave McReynolds confirmed that.
“If you raised the farmland mill rate, you raise residential,” he said.
High Prairie East – Banana Belt Councillor Tyler Air agreed with a tax freeze.
“On the mill rate, I don’t want an increase,” Airth said.
However, Panasiuk cautioned council about maintaining the mill rates at last year’s figures.
“My recommendation is always to increase the mill rates slightly each year,” said Panasiuk, who suggested a one per cent increase.
“Do we make small increases each year or do we wait a few years and make giant leaps?
“If we don’t increase this year, we look at a larger increase next year.”
McReynolds noted a one per cent increase in the residential mill rate for a property valued at $350,000 would mean a $17 increase in municipal taxes from last year.
He added tax increases are not needed this year for the operating and capital budgets.
“The budget assumes no change in mill rates,” he said.
Panasiuk says the cost of county business will go up two per cent every year.
The vote was unanimous.

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