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Volume 22, Number 19, Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Fort tax rebate proposed

City Councillor Arjun Randhawa’s proposal to give back $1 million to local homeowners appears to be his way of apologizing to taxpayers.

Randhawa approved the last-minute decision to give an extra tax break to business owners this year. That decision hiked the municipal portion of local property taxes by 4.7 per cent instead of the 2.1 per cent originally planned.

Business owners get a six per cent tax break as a result.

All of this is due to changing property values, including a drop in housing costs after more than a decade of growth.

The argument for lower business taxes is valid, given the unfair rise in taxes to business this past decade. But business taxes were already dropping this year, even without the added boost Randhawa supported.

That’s why Mayor Gale Katchur and Councillors Birgit Blizzard and Frank Garritsen voted against the motion. Katchur said she would have preferred that everyone get a 1.45 per cent tax break, which was also an option.

It is too late to change the tax bylaw. Notices are already on their way out. But it seems obvious that a few people are not happy with Council’s decision and Randhawa is perhaps having second thoughts.

The $1 million rebate will come from Fort Saskatchewan’s 2016 surplus of $4.96 million. However, this surplus has already been split between three reserve funds.

We could have had it all. Reserves would have been boosted by the full $4.96 million, with tax breaks for everyone. Or we could stuck with a break to business with only a slight hike for homeowners. Now we are going to have to dip into savings to accomplish the same thing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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Rebate poor solution to tax mess

Fort homeowners may get a rebate on property taxes this year, if a proposal by Councillor Arjun Randhawa is adopted this week.

Randhawa gave notice at Council’s May 9 meeting that he would bring forward a motion on May 13 directing administration to prepare an implementation strategy to distribute evenly to every household $1 million of Fort Saskatchewan’s $5 million 2016 surplus.

The proposal won’t be in time to be part of our annual tax notices now being prepared, but Randhawa wants the strategy ready for June 13 Council meeting.

The rebate is targeted only to homeowners.

Local residential taxes are going up by about six per cent on average, partly due to a last-minute decision by Council to give business owners a tax break this year. Taxes for the average business property will drop by about two per cent.

Randhawa was one of four Council members voting for the extra tax break for business properties.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017