CANMORE – The Town of Canmore is trying to help its residents manage the impacts of COVID-19 through deferring property tax and utility payments.
In a special meeting held Tuesday (March 24), town council voted unanimously to defer utility payments and property tax payments for Canmore residents and business owners for the months of April, May and June 2020.
“This is a new and unprecedented situation and has created a high level of economic and income uncertainty for residents and business owners in our community,” said manager of finance Chelsea Richardson.
“With new information coming out daily, we’ve really targeted today short-term solutions to provide immediate peace of mind for our property owners. We are monitoring the federal and provincial supports being offered – as well as how other communities are addressing these shared challenges – and working on how to achieve a place with the maximum benefit to our taxpayers.”
She said the option to defer property tax and utility payments for three months comes with no penalties or interest applied on the deferred balances.
“Following that period, rather than a larger lump sum payment due at that time, we’re proposing that the balance that has been deferred can then be split over the remaining payments for the rest of the 2020 year to smooth out those amounts for people, again without any penalties or interest on those amounts,” said Richardson.
For those on the pre-authorized utility payment plan program, Richardson said they could still stay on the program and continue to make payments.
“We have received feedback that the consistency and reliability, predictability of that program is beneficial for families who are – and business owners – who are able to take advantage of it, so we do want to continue that program for those who are able too,” she said.
“For those who are looking for the deferral option and are dealing with unexpected changes to their financial situation, we are asking that people notify us if they wish to exercise that option to defer.”
At this time, Richardson said the financial team and the IT team are working cohesively to create an online form that will help implement this new deferral option.
She said those not on the payment program will still have the 90 day deferral option, however discussions with the utilities department would still need to take place to see what those payments look like for the rest of the year.
In terms of property taxes, Richardson the deferral applies only to those enrolled in the tax instalment payment plan (TIPP) program at this time.
“The reason the property tax recommendation is only referencing the TIPP program is because the deadline for property taxes is usually the last business day of June, so there are currently no payments due for any property owners unless they’re enrolled in the TIPP program,” said Richardson.
In addition, the Town intends to waive any administration fee that’s normally charged on non-sufficient funds for both programs. Richardson said longer term tax relief will be discussed at the next council meeting on April 7.
Mayor John Borrowman said he’s impressed with the quick work the financial team has done on this.
“I really appreciate you and your team coming to council so quickly with this recommendation,” he said.
“We’ve already talked about the heightened stress in the community and we know that well hundreds of people have been laid off temporarily or whatnot, and this is one way that the Town can help reduce stress for our residents."
The council decision comes after the province announced it would cancel an approved increase in the education requisition on property taxes across the province and freeze the levy at last year's amount. As part of the UCP's budget, education property taxes were to increase by 4.2 per cent, however due to Canmore's equalized assessment, that increase would have been closer to 14 per cent for property owners.
Property owners will still see a small increase in the education requisition because the municipality undercollected last year since UCP's budget was passed in the fall, after the municipality had set the tax rates.
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