June 22 Council Update
Updated: Nov 16
• LATE TAX PAYMENT PENALTY STRUCTURE AMENDMENTS
• PROCEDURE BYLAW REVIEW
• 10-ACRE PARCEL APPROVED IN DIVISION 4
• 2021 MUNICIPAL ELECTION DEBRIEF
LATE TAX PAYMENT PENALTY STRUCTURE AMENDMENTS
On June 14th, Administration provided a report on options for revising the late tax payment penalty structure. Council had requested this at its April 5th meeting.
Taxes in Rocky View are due June 30th. The current penalty for late tax payments is 12% payable July 1st, with a second 12% penalty applied to outstanding taxes on January 1st. Over the past few years, there has been an influx of requests to Council to waive those penalties. Many of those making the requests have cited the onerous penalty as the key reason for their objection, especially when they paid their taxes shortly after June 30th.
Administration’s report highlighted the conflict in dealing with late tax payment penalties - it is important for the County collect taxes on time; however, the County also relies on the almost $1 million revenue from late tax penalties. It was also interesting to note that historically, despite the hefty penalty, the vast majority (63%) of those who were in arrears on July 1 st were still in arrears on January 1st.
Based on this, it is clear that the penalty isn’t a deterrent to those who, for whatever reason, decide to not pay on time. Rather, the penalty is an incredibly hefty cost to those in arrears because of a simple mistake.
Administration compared our current penalty structure with 12 of our municipal neighbours. While each municipality has a different penalty structure, Rocky View County is the only municipality that charges 12% for being one day late – all other municipalities either have a reduced initial penalty and/or have staggered it over three to six months.
In my opinion, charging 2% per month was the ideal option. That way, those who make a
simple mistake can quickly fix the issue with a relatively small penalty. Conversely, those who choose to use the County as a method of financing would still be charged the 12% over the six months. Due to compounding interest, this approach would actually collect more from those who leave their taxes in arrears. However, my suggestion did not have majority support.
Councillors Boehlke and Schule felt that there was nothing wrong with the current structure. Councillor Samra thought we should charge 6% initially and 6% three months later. Councillor Hanson suggested a structure that would charge 4% on July 1st, September 1st and November 1st. His motion passed 4-3 with all but Boehlke, Schule and Samra in support. The new structure will be implemented with 2023’s taxes.
PROCEDURE BYLAW REVIEW
Due to changes to the Municipal Government Act (MGA), along with the desire of some on Council to make other changes, Council considered amendments to the Procedure Bylaw at its June 14th meeting. Key changes approved in the review were: the ability to hold electronic meetings with enhancements to public participation in such meetings; the ability for boards and committees to hold special meetings; cleaning up wording around motions arising and declaring pecuniary interests; an increase in speaking time for groups from 5 minutes to 10 minutes; and the reduction of the Mayor’s term from two years to one year.
Council had deferred decisions on the Procedure Bylaw from its March 22nd meeting to permit Administration to incorporate the MGA changes, to give the new CAO time to review it, and to obtain a legal opinion on options for dealing with first reading of bylaws that require public hearings. The County’s current practice for these bylaws is to gives them first reading, without amendments or debate, before a public hearing. Second and third readings of the bylaw are considered after the public hearing with debate and possible amendments at that time.
In March’s initial report, Administration outlined an alternate process for first reading of bylaws that require public hearings - considering all three readings of a bylaw after a public hearing. This was the approach used until July 2019. While there are pros and cons for each method, because of the rubber-stamp approach to separate first readings, I made a motion in March to obtain a legal opinion on the matter. That opinion was presented at the June 14th meeting.
After an in-camera session to discuss the legal opinion, Council directed Administration to provide more fulsome reports at first reading. Council also discussed the merits of allowing debate at first reading for issues such as expanding circulation areas on larger projects. However, debate on the Procedure Bylaw was ended before any motion was made to provide for limited debate at first reading. As a result, Deputy Mayor Kissel and I did not support the unanimous consent required to give the Procedure Bylaw all three readings at the June 14th meeting. We had hoped that delaying final approval until the June 28th meeting would give our colleagues the opportunity to reconsider permitting limited debate at first reading.
On June 28th, after the Procedure Bylaw was given third reading, Kissel made a motion arising asking Administration to prepare a report analyzing options for the County’s planning application process and first reading process and to bring that report back by September 13th. Her motion passed 5-2 with all but Boehlke and Schule in support.
10-ACRE PARCEL APPROVED IN DIVISION 4
An application to create a 10-acre parcel leaving a 143-acre remainder in the Lochend Rd/TWP Rd 272 area of Division 4 was approved unanimously. Administration recommended refusal.
The parcel already had a first parcel out and the proposed parcel already had a house where the applicant’s son and family were residing. While the application did not meet the intent of the County plan which is to protect agricultural lands and prevent fragmenting quarter sections, there was support from the surrounding community.
A modifier was placed on the new parcel to prohibit further subdivision without a new public hearing. Without the modifier, the 10-acre parcel’s R-RUR designation would permit subdivision down to 4-acre parcels.
2021 MUNICIPAL ELECTION DEBRIEF
On June 28th, Administration provided Council with an overview of the 2021 Municipal Election. It was noted that while COVID had presented some challenges, the election had the highest voter turnout of the last 4 elections with 39.6%. Administration could not determine if the higher turnout was because of more interest in the election or because of the provincial referendum questions that piggybacked on the election.
Feedback for the review was collected from staff, election workers and Council. Interestingly, scrutineers were not asked for their input despite it being noted that there were 325 objected-to ballots, 271 of which were because of unknown addresses.
As follow-up, I made a motion arising, asking Administration to prepare a report on the
feasibility of creating a voters’ list to be brought back no later than January 31, 2023. My
motion passed 6-1, with all but Schule in support.