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Opinion

Former City Council Candidate says taxpayers mislead on tax increase

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Submitted as an Opinion by Calvin Goulet-Jones

1.89% Tax increase you say? I beg to differ.

Every Spring the city sends out a news release stating how much the city has increased our property taxes. Have you noticed something off with your taxes over the last few years? Now before we get into it, note that the city collects taxes in three ways. First they collect your property tax, next they collect the provincial education property tax, and third they collect the piper creek foundation taxation levy which I believe goes to seniors’ housing. The increases I am going to refer to take out the education and piper creek amounts as the city isn’t on control of those and focusses specifically on the tax revenue collected for the city. 

Let’s continue. 

In 2017 (May 1 to be exact) the City put out a news release saying the combined taxation increase was 1.1% for that year
In 2018 (April 30) the City put out a news release saying the combined tax increase was 1.5% for that year
In 2019 (April 29) the City put out a news release saying the combined tax increase was 1.89% for this year.

If you are like me you pay close attention to your taxes. I noticed an extreme variation between what the City News release stated and what we are actually taxed. And in case you’re wondering, no, the variation is not because of property value swings. 

Now hold onto your seat here. 

Red Deer Council (who seem to have smiles plastered on their faces every time they announce the tax rate increase) are either extremely ignorant or purposely deceptive as the property tax increases that you and I receive are not at all what they announce. 

When the city announces what the tax rate increase is, they are not actually announcing the tax rate, they are announcing the Budget Increase. This may seem somewhat similar but it is not especially In a city who’s growth has stagnated, and where businesses are fleeing downtown causing the tax base to decrease substantially. If you lose 2% of your revenue and increase your budget by 2% you have to make up that difference and that is done in the real tax rate which is called the Mill Rate. 

Red Deer’s administrations position (as sent to me in an email) is that “Mill rate changes are not indicative of tax rates”. Nothing could be further from the truth as your taxes are calculated by the Mill rate multiplied by your homes assessed value. When you are paying significantly more per $1000 of your house’s value than what they announce, you know that their statement that the mill rate not being indicative of tax rates is full of bologna. 

Lets look deeper where you will see Red Deer’s Mill rate increasing since the beginning of the largest recession our province has seen in a generation. The increases are mind blowing. 

Unbeknownst to many the 1.89% announced this year does not reflect the actual increases. The actual Mill rate increase was not 1.89% (remember this is just the city portion) it was a whopping 4.85%. That’s right,but still barely scratching the surface. In 2018, Red Deer’s 1.5% increase announcement was actually a 4.323% Mill rate increase. In 2017, the city’s 1.1% announcement was actually a 4.611% increase! 

To give some context Red Deer’s Population growth since 2015 has officially shrunk, we recorded 100807 people in 2015. The latest data has us at 99,832. Inflation since 2015 has been 6.21%, and Albertas GDP since 2015 has grown by less than 1%. The popular line during elections is that we are going to tax population growth + inflation. Well that only works if you actually follow through. The actual tax increases we have experienced since 2015 have been nearly THREE TIMES inflation + population growth. Since 2015 Red Deer residents have seen a whopping 17.014% increase, which is a 10.8% higher increase beyond inflation and population growth and it appears to me that council believes they have done a good job here. What a joke. 

Red Deerians know full well how hard this recession has hit us. Many of us are easily down 10% in our earnings and many more are down 20%, 30%, some even 40% in their yearly earnings since 2015. This doesn’t even include those who have been affected by unemployment. Council owes it to Red Deerians to do better and frankly Red Deerians owe it to themselves to ensure that in 2021 more than just 29% of the electorate show up to vote.

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Opinion

Red Deer’s population grew by 195 since 2015

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2019 RED DEER MUNICIPAL CENSUS = 101,002

2016 RED DEER MUNICIPAL CENSUS= 99,832

2015 RED DEER MUNICIPAL CENSUS= 100,807

In the four years since 2015 Red Deer has grown by 195 residents or less than 0.2% in 4 years.

Timberlands grew from 1834 residents in 2015 to 3038 residents in 2019 or 1204 residents, for a growth of about 66% so where did we lose all our residents? Let us look at the neighbourhoods north of the river.

Residents living north of the river in 2015=32,005, 2016=31,228 and finally 2019= 30,576 for a total decline of 1,429 residents.

Let us break it down;

……YEAR………..2019.…………….2016.……………..2015

Kentwood-………….4235.……………4267.……………..4299

Glendale………..….4284.……………4288.……………..4430

Normandeau……….3275.……………3530.……………..3603

Pines……………..…1725.……………..1718.……………..1851

Highland Green……3896.…………….3920.……………4065

Oriole Park…………5200.…………..…5244.…………….5300

Riverside Meadows..3423.…………….3686.…………….3810

Fairview…………….733.………………710.……………..761

Johnstone…………..3805.……………..3865.…………….3886

Total……………….30,576.…………31,228.……………32,005

So it looks like we just relocated residents from north of the river to new subdivisions like Timberlands. In an age where we are trying to limit our footprint Red Deer expanded our footprint faster than our population growth demanded. New neighbourhoods require infrastructure ($), schools ($), sewers ($), water ($), roads ($), transit ($) etc.

30,000 plus people live north of the river down from 32,000 plus 4 years ago, but still a large community. I wrote about this very topic in 2016 and was given the brush off by many in city hall. One city councillor suggested that I have more children to populate the north side.

The issue was not taken seriously in 2016 and again in 2019.

I wrote that Lethbridge would overtake us and become the 3rd largest city in Alberta, and they did.

I dove deeper to see what was happening in local neighbourhoods and found that the north side of the river is being decimated and annexing or new neighbourhoods are fuelling our growth.

People keep telling me it is the provincial economy that is preventing growth. Lacombe grew by 7% last year, Blackfalds has seen record growth, Penhold, Sylvan Lake and the county grew in the same province, so I discount that theory.

My thinking is perhaps more closer to home. The other communities invested in their residents. New recreation complexes that required per capita investments that dwarf Red Deer’s by huge margins, up to 100s of percents.

Red Deer has neglected the residents north of the river. For every dollar they spend north of the river they spend 20 south of the river. No high school north of the river with 4 current and 2 planned, south of the river.

If the city could just bring their culture from 1980 to 2020 then maybe we will not lose so many residents from north of the river. It is time to stop neglecting the residents living north of the river.

Start investing in substantial recreational facilities north of the river after years of building so many south of the river. Build the next aquatic centre north of the river, build the next school, especially high school north of the river.

For the whole city the powers that be need to wake up, and invest in it’s residents. It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It is time to wake up, what the powers that be have been doing has not worked, the census proves it, it is time to do things differently.

No I am not having more children, councillor.

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Opinion

Politicians focus too much on the wallets of the few.

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We welcome opinions from our readers like this one from Garfield Marks of Red Deer, AB.

According to the Ethics Commissioner, Trudeau broke ethical guidelines on behalf of a big corporate entity, SNC-Lavalin, and as expected, it appears, everyone is calling for his resignation. I am confused, but hasn’t almost every politician of a major political party, for the last few decades, been advocating breaks for big corporations and the top 1%.

Didn’t Alberta elect a Premier who had to pay an ethics violation fine when he was a federal cabinet minister? Does he not lead a party who had issues with electoral fraud, kamikaze candidate and members issued $75,000 in fines by the ethics commissioner, due to actions during their leadership race?

Was it not a conservative government that supposedly just gave a $4.5 billion tax break to businesses? Was it not a conservative government that was supposedly lowering taxes for the top 1%? Was it not a conservative government(s) that was cutting services to everyone else to pay for these tax breaks?

Here in Alberta was there not lots of promises of jobs to rationalize billions in tax breaks for corporations only to find out that Alberta then subsequently lost 14,000 jobs in July alone?

I am not saying that Trudeau’s actions pressuring the Attorney General to give a deal to a big company is okay, but don’t they all do special deals for big corporations? Don’t we as tax payers subsidize the oil industry, cow tail to unions, pay homage to gun manufacturers, serve the auto industry, and placate the wealthy? The average voter just pays for them.

My wallet sure feels those political fingers. My costs keep going up, while my income hasn’t kept pace.

My mind has tuned out the politicians, and their desire to woo the rich and big corporations, and my heart is focused on the future, and my family.

Scientists and engineers have made great discoveries and given me some great things like cars, computers, cell phones and medical break-throughs but these same non-partisan intellectuals have also made huge unsettling discoveries, and given me causes for concern.

Issues like climate change, reminiscent of second hand smoke, are concerns to our health and our lives but are not given the same level of regard as tax breaks for the big corporations.

Second hand smoke was a major health care cost but tax breaks for cigarette companies and tobacco growers were the demands.

There is an election this fall and here in my riding there is no contest, as the conservatives will win, then become a seat warmer no one hears about, till the next election. My concerns will be ignored, my wallet will get thinner to placate the more well to do.

I do think it is about time to move on from focusing on the wallets of the few and focus on the health of the whole community. The person or party that can convince me that their focus is on the whole, for the future and not on big corporations and the wealthiest in a realistic manner, will get my support and vote.

Will my wallet survive the next election? I hope so, but I cannot be certain. I am worried we might get a Trump-like Prime Minister out of protest and the climate crisis will be pushed back and my wallet will be front and centre for political fingers for another few decades.

Is there another option?

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