Original Published 09:00 May 28, 2022

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Kneehill County council heard a detailed report from the municipality’s appointed assessor, including information on a large tax exempt development.

Representatives of Accurate Assessment appeared before council at their regular meeting May 24 to discuss year over year changes to property values and other assessment changes. Councillors heard reports from assessors Tory Birtles and Kris Meadows.

Birtles gave a quick introduction to the importance of assessment for local governments, noting that property values are the basis for the tax revenue collected. 

Birtles stated the provincial government’s Municipal Government Act (MGA) lays out the rules for how assessment is to be done.

Meadows went through the year to year comparison report and pointed out some noteworthy bits to councillors. 

He noted, comparing 2020 to 2021, Kneehill County residential properties saw a five per cent increase in assessment and attributed that to factors including new construction and market change. Non-residential saw a seven per cent change stated Meadows.

As he scrolled down the chart Meadows noted that exempt assessment increased by 23 per cent, the majority of which was based on Sunterra’s agriculture building which is a tax exempt property.

Meadows continued by pointing to a drop in assessment in 2019 and 2020 but a rebound in 2021 which saw a “…pretty good increase.”

When describing taxable assessment change in dollars chart Meadows noted that about 65 per cent of Kneehill County properties will only see their values change within $1,000, which he added, “…won’t be much impact to the majority of the people.”

A chart illustrating development permits issued over the past five years showed the numbers were relatively static year to year.

A number of charts illustrated the effects of inflation within Kneehill County, and it was summarized that the municipality saw 5.4 per cent inflation on average.

Meadows noted that the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic don’t appear to be as bad as originally predicted but assessors will continue to monitor the issue into 2022.

Coun. Laura Lee Machell-Cunningham asked why the Sunterra buildings is in the “exempt” category.

Birtles responded that the MGA notes that if a building meets the definition of a farming operation, then it is exempt from taxation. 

“The Sunterra building is essentially a great big greenhouse,” said Birtles.

Coun. Wade Christie asked how grain handling facilities are treated. Birtles responded that commercial seed cleaners could be taxable at market value if they’re operated in a commercial fashion, but some may be exempt if the owner also does some farming.

The topic of industrial assessment was also discussed. Accurate Assessment staff noted that railway is now a regulated property type. It was also noted that there have been some increases to various industrial assessment modifiers but they would have minimal impact.

Coun. Christie stated he wanted to act as “devil’s advocate” and ask the assessors a tricky question. He asked how a quarter section would be assessed if it had a large solar panel development on it, yet the grass underneath the panels was being grazed by farm animals.

The question seemed to catch the assessors off guard. However, they did state that the industrial equipment, including the solar panels, is never used for agriculture so it could be assessed at market value, although a combination may be considered as the property hosts farming activity.

Birtles told councillors Accurate Assessment represents a significant number of municipalities in Alberta and is headquartered in Sherwood Park. 

Birtles added that the company likes to get out into the public so residents know who they are and why they are in the community.

This item reprinted with permission from East Central Alberta Review, Coronation, Alberta