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MD of Willow Creek concerned with urban push for more linear tax sharing

LAWRENCE GLEASON – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
The MD of Willow Creek is concerned new interest in linear taxation by urban municipalities could threaten its linear tax base.
Taxes on linear assessments were 68 per cent of the $10.8-million in total MD of Willow Creek revenue over the last calendar year.
Linear assessments include pipelines and electrical wires that cross municipal boundaries.
Province-wide those taxes result in nearly $1-billion in municipal revenue. Taxes on pipelines alone account for about 42 per cent of Alberta’s linear tax revenue for municipalities.
Now urban municipalities are taking notice of that money as a potential new revenue source.
The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), comprised of Alberta’s cities, towns and villages, is taking a strong position that those tax revenues should be pooled and shared.
“This is nothing less and nothing more than an all-out assault on the tax roll of rural municipalities,” MD of Willow Creek chief administrative officer Cynthia Vizzutti said. “We can’t maintain 2,260 kilometres of roads by taxing Joe Farmer.”
The MD of Willow Creek has invited its five urban municipalities — Claresholm, Stavely, Nanton, Granum, and Fort Macleod — to a dinner at the Claresholm golf course March 30 to talk about linear taxation.
As a part of that meeting Willow Creek MD will provide a list of how much money is spent by the municipal district in those urban communities.
The AUMA is actively seeking support for its position.
Two symposiums on the issue were held by the AUMA in January. The results of those meetings have been published in a nine-page summary.
Concerns of the AUMA membership include a patchwork arrangement of revenue sharing agreements between rural and urban municipalities.
Some rural municipalities share more, some less, and there is no set provincial guidelines for revenue sharing agreements.
“Only three (rural) municipalities contributed over $10-million with many others contributing small amounts (e.g. $10,000) or nothing at all,” the report read.
The report also said rural municipalities share only 17 per cent of linear tax revenue with their urban neighbours.
Another key concern of urban municipalities is the absence of long-term, reliable funding agreements that rise above changing intermunicipal relationships or change-overs of elected councillors.
“In other cases, some municipalities who have had a long-standing funding agreement suddenly lost that funding when their neighbouring municipality unexpectedly cancelled the agreement, putting the urban municipality at financial risk,” the AUMA report said.
The MD of Willow Creek has provided media in the past how much money is provided its neighbouring urban municipalities that lay within its boundaries. That list will be provided to urban councillors at their meeting on March 30.
“We need to inform them of our position on linear because the AUMA is doing a good job in trying to convince them that linear would be much better off redistributed,” councillor Glen Alm said.
Vizzutti expressed concern a change to pool sharing of linear revenues would have severe impact.
“If you reallocate linear the MD of Willow Creek will immediately go from a have municipality to a have-not municipality. It is not sustainable. You can’t take 68 per cent of the MD’s tax roll and reallocate it and redistribute it and meet the same goals.”

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