Jasper National Park
By Ali Howat, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Jasper Fitzhugh
JASPER – Jasper Municipal Council decided to shift the tax burden from commercial to residential this year by reducing the ratio from 5.1:1 to 5.0:1 during the June 1 regular meeting.
Administration initially recommended that council pass the 2021 tax rate bylaw with the current 5.1:1 ratio, but it gave some alternatives for council’s consideration.
The alternatives were to amend the bylaw with either a 5:1 or 4.9:1 ratio, in both cases the Lake Edith properties ratio remaining as is.
Under the province’s Municipal Government Act, municipalities are required to have a 5:1 ratio between non-residential and residential taxes, although there is no set timeline for when municipalities have to come into compliance.
Both the Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce and the Jasper Hotel Association have pushed for a ratio more in favour of commercial in order to ensure equitable taxation.
Coun. Scott Wilson made the motion for a second reading that would keep the tax rate split at a 5.1:1 ratio for the 2021 year.
“I would like to stay at the 5.1:1 ratio,” Wilson said. “Further reduction would drastically reduce the municipality’s flexibility if needed.”
“At this point, we need to be flexible,” he added.
Deputy Mayor Jenna McGrath also voted in favor of administration’s recommendation of staying at the 5.1:1 ratio for 2021.
“Although we are speaking about small, fairly insignificant numbers in the grand scheme of our municipal taxation, it’s a principle decision for me,” McGrath said.
“I cannot ask residents to pay more this year.”
McGrath said she does see the value of change but would further those discussions to the future.
Coun. Rico Damota opposed the motion of the 5.1:1 ratio.
“To me, being not compliant right now does not make sense,” Damota said.
“It was deemed on us to take care of it. We have had four years to do it.”
Councillors Bert Journault and Hellen Kelleher Empey echoed similar opinions.
“I would prefer we move to a 4.9 this year,” Journault said.
“I don’t know why we would postpone it one year.”
Kelleher-Empey moved to replace the 5.1:1 ratio with the 4.9:1 ratio, but this motion was defeated after a continued debate on the matter.
Coun. Paul Butler then made a motion for a 5:1 ratio.
“Why would we argue to stay at 5.1?” Butler asked council.
“What is the compelling reason, other than it’s what we have always done?”
Mayor Ireland called to question the motion to give second reading as amended, with the amendment being to convert the 5.1:1 ratio tax split to the 5.0:1 ratio.
With two opposed and five in favour, the motion was carried.
The motion was then made to council for a third and final reading with the motion once again being carried.