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Reeve Reflections

Tax burden looms in absence of oil and gas recovery

Merrill Harris

As this is the first newsletter to be printed since the provincial election I’d like to extend congratulations to Premier Jason Kenney, MLA Grant Hunter of the Taber / Warner constituency and MLA Joseph Schow of the Cardston-Siksika constituency on their election victories. As well congratulations to Mr. Hunter on being named the Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction.

The M.D. of Taber is highly dependent upon  non-residential property taxes to fund municipal operations - near 70% of the M.D. of Taber budget is related to this property class, which includes industrial and commercial operations including industrial plants, well sites, gravel pit operations, electrical generation and transmission, telecommunication equipment and railway. The largest component of the non-residential property class includes linear and machinery and equipment related to oil and gas wells, gas and oilfield installations.

The Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) have recently conducted a survey that identifies that an unprecedented $81 million in property taxes from oil and gas companies have gone unpaid. This is a unique challenge that has not been experienced by municipalities in Alberta before. When oil and gas companies fail to pay property taxes, the burden falls on the rest of the tax base to cover the difference to ensure that core services and infrastructure can continue to be provided. Often when property taxes go unpaid so do surface lease rentals and more importantly business activities within communities.

The Province of Alberta has initiated a measure of tax relief for shallow well gas producers by reducing the education property tax portion of property taxes. It is expected that this measure will provide $23 million in support to the industry.

It is hoped that the new government will address the sustainability of Alberta’s oil and gas industry. It is evident to every Albertan that over the past 5 years the industry has been under attack by both the federal and provincial governments. The inability to construct a single pipeline to tidewater has proven to be a detriment to our economy. Loss of large linear property tax payers may result in a significant tax shift to other property tax classes if the oil and gas industry does not recover.

Drainage

The work on drainage projects continues with significant progress once again being made by the M.D. of Taber projects crew on installation of new culverts, replacement culverts or culverts damaged by last year’s flooding. Work will continue on this important work this year and into the future.

The M.D. of Taber is close to tendering out the West Township 8 Range 16 project in the coming months – this project has been ongoing since 2012. The M.D. of Taber was able to secure $2.3 million in funding for the project under the Alberta Community Resiliency Program. The M.D. of Taber extends its thanks to the TID and SMRID and the landowners for their collaboration on this important project

Economic Development

It was a great day back on June 10 at the grand opening of the Prairie Gold Product Ltd. water supply project in Vauxhall. This company produces 10 million pounds of product from potatoes grown in our region. 60 jobs depend on this plant and keeping it operational by enabling it to meet United States food safety standards is a huge economic win! Thank you to the Town of Vauxhall, the BRID and the Vauxhall Water Services Commission for making it happen.

Much work is being done towards attracting plant protein processors to our region including attendance at economic development forums, working collaboratively with regional partners and actively seeking investment opportunities in this growing industry.

Community Safety

At the June 25 meeting of Council a resolution was passed expressing support for the M.D. of Taber Community Peace Officer program. The Peace Officer program enhances community safety through increased visibility, taking lower priority calls leaving RCMP to deal with criminal activities provide enforcement including speeding, weights and dimensions and bylaw enforcement including irrigation of roads which protects municipal infrastructure. The two level 1 Peace Officers provide a valuable service to the community and are meeting the goals outlined in their annual operational plan.

Infrastructure

The dry weather does have some benefit – our 2019 roadwork program is ahead of schedule. The M.D. of Taber was pleased to receive two Strategic Transportation Grants – one for a mile of road SE of Enchant and the second to rebuild an aging bridge. Additionally the M.D. of Taber and Alberta Transportation have entered into an agreement to collaborate on the construction of a off highway truck park along Highway 36 at Vauxhall. The $2 million dollar project is funded 75/25. A tender for the project will be issued in the coming month or so.

The M.D. of Taber is certainly a busy place with lots of projects and activities underway. We have many challenges however we have great staff who always rise up to meet them all.

Speaking of staff I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to Derrick Krizsan – Municipal Administrator – who will be leaving the M.D. of Taber on August 23 for another opportunity. We thank Derrick for his contributions to the municipality and region and wish him well in his future endeavors.

I wish you a successful summer season.

Sincerely,

Merrill Harris
Reeve
Municipal District of Taber