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Property tax bylaw for 2021 passed by Canmore council

“I ask the public to give each other some space for grace as we work through our financial considerations in our community since this isn’t the final piece of work. Next year is going to be a tough budget as well.”

CANMORE – Property owners in Canmore will have a better picture for their municipal taxes for the remainder of the year.

Town council unanimously approved the mill rate in one of the more difficult budget and tax years in recent memory due to the immense financial pressures from COVID-19.

The year also had significant increases in the value of properties as prices – especially for residential units – soared across the country with Canmore being no exception.

“This is a critical part of council’s work each year and I think particularly after a difficult financial year that we’ve been through with COVID and knowing it’s not over yet,” Mayor John Borrowman said.

“I feel the Town of Canmore continues to be very responsive to the needs of our community and to ensuring we have the tax requisition that’s sufficient to operate the community to the standard our residents expect.”

The operating budget was approved on Feb. 23 with a total of $26.395 million that came with a municipal property tax increase of 4.5 per cent from 2020.

The services run in the municipality cost roughly $58 million, with $25.7 million coming from property taxes and the remaining from other sources such as the province.

Chelsey Richardson, the Town’s manager of finance, highlighted under the Municipal Government Act the limited revenue generation municipalities have, which primarily come from property taxes.

The staff report stated property taxes are only collected to cover budget costs, and after calculating the total taxes to come from residential and non-residential properties for a 65 to 35 per cent split.

For every dollar collected, 53 cents goes to municipal services, 44 cents is gathered for the provincial education requisition and three cents for seniors lodging.

Though some residents may feel Canmore property taxes are higher than elsewhere in the province, data provided by staff showed the town is largely in the middle of the pack. The split of taxes for other comparative municipalities averages to residential properties picking up 68 per cent of the taxes compared to Canmore’s 65 per cent.

The assessed property value in Canmore also passed the $8 billion mark, while the average assessed price of a single-family home is $950,000. Condominiums were valued at an average assessment of $677,000.

Borrowman warned with real estate prices significantly increasing, it could have an eventual impact on assessment and taxes.

The Municipal Government Act sets the assessment process and the audit branch of the Municipal Affairs Ministry monitors the assessment.

Richardson noted assessments are done by using mass appraisals that values a collection of properties using factors such as common data, mathematical models and statistical tests. She said there are only eight property assessments being appealed.

The Town’s assessor found new growth of $146.9 million, with $136.4 million coming from residential properties and the remainder from non-residential. However, the assessor also calculated a market decline of $32 million,for an overall $115 million increase in taxable assessment. The report highlighted the assessor’s determination are outside the purview of the Town.

One of the bigger jumps was the seniors’ requisition, which went up by $652,000 to $1.56 million for a 71 per cent increase.

Ian Wilson, the CAO of Bow Valley Regional Housing, said they were hard hit during the pandemic due to extra costs such as increasing staffing by about 40 per cent. He added phase two of the Canmore Seniors Lodge will have some capital and start-up costs not covered by the province.

The provincial government has contributed about $29 million in the first and second phase of the expansion that will add 60 beds of seniors housing to the valley. 

“We cannot in good conscious operate without a cushion, which we learned in 2020 was so valuable and important,” Wilson said. “We have to continue to protect our seniors.”

Property taxes and the budget are among a municipal council’s most important work to be completed each year. The discussion is often complex and has multiple different factors at play such as paying the bills at the municipal level, but also the costly education rate collected by the province.

While the taxes collected go towards the bills for the upcoming years of running services in the community, there’s also money set aside in reserves to help for future projects and emergency situations such as COVID-19.

Municipal taxes and Canmore Community Housing requisition are established through the budget, while the seniors’ requisition comes from Bow Valley Regional Housing. The province’s Municipal Affairs Ministry sets the designated industrial property tax and educational tax rates . It means while municipal councils bear the burden of residents frustrations, much of the collection is decided outside their realm of control.

Several councillors expressed hope community members would watch the presentation, especially those planning to run in the upcoming municipal election.

Coun. Joanna McCallum also emphasized with the province set to cut some financial transfers to municipalities, upcoming budget and tax discussions could have difficult decisions being made.

“It’s been a very difficult year, not just for businesses but also for general residents. … I also know for quite a few people in our community nothing has actually changed for them financially," she said. 

"I think that’s been the difficult balance that council has had to achieve this year is understanding there are people whose lives have been affected so drastically who are living along people who are only mildly inconvenienced.

“I ask the public to give each other some space for grace as we work through our financial considerations in our community since this isn’t the final piece of work. Next year is going to be a tough budget as well.”

Property classifications and assessments

  • Residential: $6.375 billion in 2020 and $$6.497 billion in 2021 for 1.9 per cent increase
  • Tourist home: $223.7 million in 2020 and $242.1 million in 2021 for 8.2 per cent increase
  • Tourist home personal use: $60.8 million in 2020 and $66.6 million in 2021 for 9.4 per cent increase
  • Vacant services: $59.7 million in 2020 and $54.8 million in 2021 for 8.2 per cent decrease
  • Non-residential: $1.2 billion in 2020 and $1.18 billion in 2021 for 2.3 per cent decrease
  • Machinery and equipment: $49 million in 2020 and $50.2 million in 2021 for 2.6 per cent increase
  • Total: $7.97 billion in 2020 and $8.1 billion in 2021 for a 1.4 per cent increase

Residential classifications

  • Single family homes: $939,500 in 2020 and $950,000 in 2021 for 1.1 per cent increase
  • Residential condos: $672,000 in 2020 and $677,000 in 2021 for 0.7 per cent increase

Tax collection

  • Municipal taxes: $25.7 million
  • Provincial education taxes: $22.3 million
  • Seniors’ requisition: $1.6 million
  • Vital homes: $700,000
  • Designated industrial property tax: $3,948