Assessment News

2016 Municipal Property Assessment

“The Modernized Municipal Government Act”

Over the last several years the Province of Alberta has been reviewing the Statute that governs the functions and activities of municipal governments.  The Municipal District of Taber met with Deputy Minister Weadick early on in the process (2013) to present our concerns and suggested amendments. Most recently (March 2016) this municipality has continued to advocate for you through continued communication with Minister Larivee of Municipal Affairs. Bill 21, the Modernized Municipal Government Act, received first reading in the Legislature on May 31, 2016 and proposed enactment is January 1, 2017.

 Regarding Property Assessment and Taxation we requested changes under the following broad categories:

Request Category:

Change in MMGA:

Assessable Person:

On behalf of our citizens with non‑residential structures (tower sites) on their property, tax liability notices on these properties be sent to the improvement owner rather than owner of the land.

No amendment to existing

Information Collection:

more clarity regarding the notification of the collection of information, what kinds of information could be collected and how as well as the consequences for not supplying the requested information.

Requirement to provide information to the assessor when requested remains.  A property owner may be denied their right of complaint should they fail to provide the information requested.

Assessor must provide information to the Minister when asked regardless of confidentiality.

Access to Information:

more clarity regarding information to be released when requested by an assessed person as well consideration for the time required to comply when sure a request is made due to the volume information sometimes involved.

Requirement for the municipality to provide information to the assessed person remains but is limited to information held at the time of the request. Specifics will be dealt with in Regulations yet to be determined.

Proposed Condition & Valuation Date Change:

no change to the currently legislated dates.

No amendment to existing, except for machinery & equipment and railway defined as “designated industrial property” which will now have a condition date of October 31.


 

Regulated Properties (farmland, machinery & equipment, linear, railway):

  • the definitions and the intent of the law regarding the assessment of these properties be communicated using clear language. Doing so would allow the municipality to resolve disputes without expensive legal consultation as is the current practice. 
  • the rates applied to these properties in the assessment process require updating to maintain fairness, equity and transparency for all taxpayers this municipality and the Province.  As Municipal Affairs determines these Regulations Municipal Affairs needs to participate in training assessors in their application and intent.
  • an improved way of recovering taxes left unpaid primarily as a result of bankruptcies in the oil & gas industry – currently these unpaid taxes must be redistributed in the tax rates set the following year and/or require expense legal consultation.

Farm land & Buildings – no proposed change in the MGA, but it will be dealt with further in the Regulations yet to be determined.

 Machinery & Equipment, Linear & Railway – these properties are now defined as “designated industrial property”, the assessment is to be removed from a municipality’s responsibility to the Province.  The Municipality has no right to request information about the assessment of these properties from the Province, a property owner will have to contact the Province directly with their concerns about the assessment of this property.  Specific procedures and rates yet to be determined by Regulation.

  • We don’t know what effect this will have on mixed use agricultural properties (machinery & equipment may be found along with farmland, non‑residential, and residential all on the same parcel), how they will be prepared/valued, etc.
  • The Province also has the ability via Regulation to centralize the assessment of ‘major plants’ and ‘any other property designated by the regulations’.

Oversight/Audit:

a timely and thoroughly developed Advisory function delivered by Municipal Affairs regarding Statute and Regulations.  An expanded advisory mandate that would work with municipalities through the Audit function to identify solutions for any identified weaknesses in assessment service delivery.

No amendment to existing, may be further considered in the Regulations yet to be determined.

Complaints Process & Assessment Review Boards:

a more streamlined process with appropriately educated and experienced ARB members.  This would result in a less expensive process for the municipality hopefully resulting in decisions rendered with high regard for the Legislation avoiding future complaints on the same issues by the same property owners.

ARB decisions are now appealable directly to the Court and do not have to pass a “Leave to Appeal Review”.  This is likely to result in increased legal costs for the municipality.  A lawyer must be retained to appear on the municipality’s behalf before the Court in every instance.

Improved Inter-Ministry Communication: Many of the Statutory constructs in Alberta were envisioned and designed to work together.  In the past, different Ministries shared information and relied on each other to fulfill legal mandates set out in the Legislation.  More recently this municipalities are experiencing increasing difficulty in obtaining the information required to fulfill their responsibilities under the Act.  The processes set out in the MGA rely on other authorities such as the School Act, Irrigation District Act, as well as provincially administered regulatory bodies such as the Alberta Energy Regulator and the Alberta Utilities Commission.

No amendment to existing, no apparent policy change.

 Bill 21 also contains:

  • The ability to split the non‑residential mill rate, particulars are yet to be outlined in a Regulation.
  • Tax Rates will be linked by a 5:1 ratio – a non‑residential tax rate cannot exceed 5 times the residential tax rate. As a result of this, we anticipate the necessity of a gradual tax shift to residential properties.

Much of the authority previously contained in the Act is moved to the Regulations under Bill 21’s proposed amendments.  Regulations are much easier to change than the Act because they are not required to be read and debated in the Legislature, regulations are more administrative than democratic in their natural.

Many of the amendments found in the MMGA will result in an increase in costs to every municipality – this is the opposite result of many of the requests this municipality made of the Municipal Affairs.  www.mgareview.alberta.ca contains details regarding the Summer Tour for further consultations on Bill 21 and other information about the review process thus far.  Local consultations will be held July 13-15 in Brooks, Medicine Hat, and Lethbridge – you will be required to reserve a seat to attend.