The Real Scoop on Rocky View Property Taxes
When the County talks about taxes, it always emphasizes the low residential property tax rate in Rocky View, especially relative to the tax rates in our neighbouring municipalities. Many of us had bought into this messaging. But, while the County’s assertion is technically correct, it is far from the whole story.
The reality is that none of us pay a tax rate – we pay an actual amount of dollars in property taxes.
When you look at the property taxes paid by the average household, the story-line for Rocky View changes dramatically. It becomes obvious why the County prefers to compare tax rates. Based on tax rates, Rocky View has the second lowest tax rate of neighbouring municipalities (see Table 1). However, when you look at the actual taxes paid by the average household in each municipality, Rocky View is the fourth highest (see Table 2).
The tax rate is simply the total amount that needs to be raised divided by the total assessed property value. The tax rate is dependent on the assessed value of the properties in the municipality – the higher the assessed values, the lower the tax rate will be for the same level of expenditure. But, for most people, it is the amount we pay for the services we receive that is most relevant.
The clearest way to look at this is to compare what the average household pays (total residential property taxes collected divided by the number of households) relative to the services they receive. Some of us will be above average because our property value is higher than the average; some of us will be below average. But, comparing the average across municipalities is the best way to understand what we pay for our services relative to households in other municipalities.
The average household in Rocky View pays more property tax than do the average households in Calgary, Cochrane, Airdrie or Crossfield. This is troubling since these are all urban centres that have significantly more services than Rocky View. One would have thought that households would pay more to have more services.
The services we get in Rocky View are more comparable to the services households receive in our neighbouring rural municipalities – Bighorn, Kneehill, Mountain View and Wheatland counties. But, the average household in Rocky View pays two – three times as much property taxes as do the average households in these other rural municipalities.
The obvious question is: What are we getting for our money?
We are paying more, on average, than almost all our urban and rural neighbours. Are we getting more? Not that we’ve noticed – we’re definitely getting less than our urban neighbours and about the same as our rural neighbours.
The next question is: Why are we paying more for less?
The apparent answer to this question is that the County’s financial situation must not be nearly as rosy as our current Council wants us to believe. There must be significant amounts of waste and inefficiencies in the County’s budget to explain why the average household in Rocky View is paying so much more than most of our neighbours for comparable or lesser services.
The County’s finances need a thorough examination – a detailed value-for-money audit – to get us onto a sustainable path. Had our current Council supported the proposal to establish a finance/audit committee during its term, we might already have some answers. As it stands, we need to ensure we elect a Council that will be committed to putting our financial house in order – not one that will continue the money-wasting business as usual.
Table 1 - The County''s Story on Property Taxes
2016 Residential Property Taxes
Table 2 - The Other Story - What You Actually Pay
2016 Property Taxes Paid by Average Household
Rocky View County - Vantage Point, July 2017
Compiled by John McMurray, candidate in Division 6 with data from www.regionaldashboard.alberta.ca