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Taxes and Assessment FAQ

Zero per cent tax increase: what it means

A zero percent increase means we collect the same total amount of taxes as the previous year.

The formula is:

assessment x tax rate = total taxes

The assessment changes every year. It can go up if there is inflation or down if there is deflation.

The assessment is established by certified assessors. It is based on the prior three years of sales data. The government requires assessments to be within plus/minus 95% of the estimated sales value of a home. Assessors use licensed assessment software to conduct these complex calculations. Property assessment is regulated in Alberta by the provincial government. The Town has no control over the assessment process or the assessed value of any property in Town.

In order to maintain the same total taxes for the whole Town and accommodate fluctuations in assessment – which is outside of the Town’s control – the tax rate will change.

Yet we are still collecting the same total amount in property taxes.

If assessment went up due to inflation, we wouldn’t collect more taxes; we would decrease the tax rate to maintain the total tax amount collected.

The same goes for deflation. We increase the tax rate to adjust for the change in assessment. In 2021 the tax rate went up by ½ of a percent.)

This is done for all property tax classes within the Town.

For an individual property the assessment also changes, but it may not go up or down at the same rate of inflation/deflation as the entire assessment for the Town. This is what causes changes in taxes for an individual property owner.

Individual property taxes will only go down if that property decrease in assessed value more than the average total assessment change.

The formula assessment x tax rate = taxes is applied to the overall taxes and on every property individually. If the change in assessment is different individually than the overall total, then there will be a change.

The tax rate floats to account for changes in assessment from the assessor.

On the flip side, if assessment goes up and there is a zero per cent total tax increase, then the property tax rate would go down. We may start to see this if inflation gets higher. The last three to five years have been a deflationary economy. If it starts to increase it will be the opposite effect on property tax rates.

Q: My assessment went down – why haven’t my taxes gone down?

The simple answer is the tax formula. The tax rate floats to maintain the total tax amount collected, based on the total assessment in Town.

In 2021 assessment decreased overall by 4.95% or $33.381 million for residential properties. Single family homes in total decreased by 5.33% or $26.5 million. If an individual home increased or decreased by a rate different than the overall average change then the taxes will change slightly because the overall tax rate is calculated based on the total amounts, not individual properties. The table below shows the changes in assessment from the budget in December 2020 and the final assessed values provided by the assessor for the May 2021 tax rate calculation.

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There is also the split between residential and non-residential to consider as this plays into the overall tax calculation.

Again, taxes don’t always go down if there is deflation but on the flip side in 2022 the cost of living is set to increase by 4.7%, yet taxes won’t go up by the amount of inflation either.

Individual taxes will only go down if that assessment decreases more than the average total assessment change. 

The formula is assessment x tax rate = taxes. This formula is applied to the overall taxes and on every property individually. If the change in assessment is different individually than the overall total, then there will be a change to a property’s tax bill.

 

Q: Why do education tax rates change from year to year? Are education taxes are manipulated to increase our overall tax bill?

Educational tax rates are not set by the Town. They are set by the Ministry of Education, who then advises municipalities of the total amount of school taxes that need to be collected. The Town collects this amount and remits it directly to the Provincial Government. Their calculation is based on the budget to operate the educational system in Alberta.


Q: Who sets the amount we have to pay for Seniors Housing (Westview Lodge)?

Like the education portion of your property tax bill, the Town has no control over the Westview Lodge requisition. Rocky Seniors Housing submits its requisition to the Town and we collect it, then remit the funds directly to Westview Lodge. The overall amount is quite small – in 2021 it was $86,239 for a tax rate of 0.1%.


Q: Why does the assessed value of land and property improvements change at different rates? It feels sneaky.

Property assessment in Alberta is regulated by the provincial government. The assessor calculates the assessment based on the prior 3 years of sales data and uses software to calculate individual property assessments. The Town of Rocky Mountain House receives this data from the assessor and is unable to make any changes.


Q: What if I disagree with my assessment?

If you do not agree with the assessed value of your home, there is a legislated appeal process. Instructions are found on your assessment notice.

The first step is to contact either our Tax Coordinator or the Assessor. They will review your assessment with you and explain the changes. If you still are not happy, you can file a formal appeal. Formal cases are heard by the Central Alberta Regional Assessment Appeal Board, based in Red Deer. The adjudicators will listen to both sides and then make a decision regarding the assessment.

Click here for more information on the appeal board. 


Q: Utility rates increased in 2019. Was this to make up for the decreased assessment or tax revenue?

No. Utilities (water/sewer, solid waste, recycling and organics collection) are self-funded services. This means no utility revenue is used to fund other Town operations. Utility rates are based on the actual cost to fund operations for operating purposes and to fund future capital projects, such as underground pipes and water treatment infrastructure. The Town does not make a profit on utilities.

Self-funded utilities is a requirement of many federal and provincial grants. Because the Town moved to this self-funded model in 2019, it was able to secure $20 million from Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Partnership Program and Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program towards a new wastewater treatment facility. Without a self-funded utilities program, the Town of Rocky Mountain House would have to finance this amount instead.

Utility rates have not increased since 2019.


Q: Why can’t we get a tax break?

The Town has maintained the total property tax amount since 2017. 

This zero percent increase - rather than an increase to match the cost of living from 2017 to 2021 – is a tax break. The Town has maintained its total property tax amount through five years of inflation without removing services.  

(At an estimate of 2%, the total taxes would have increased by $700,000 from 2017 to 2021. At a very simple level with 3,000 properties this would show as an increase of $233 for every property if just evenly applied) 

Core inflation in Alberta averaged 2.24%, while the collective inflation since 2016 (for Canada) is 11.73%. While other municipalities have increased their total property tax amount, the Town of Rocky Mountain House maintained judicious budgeting in order to maintain our total property tax requisition.

While individual property taxes may vary depending on individual assessments, the Town has not collected any more property tax overall from Town property-owners since 2017. 


Other Frequently Asked Questions:

1. When are assessment and tax notices mailed out?

Separate property assessment notices are mailed out in late winter. The property taxation notices are mailed out in June. If you have not received your assessment notices by mid-March, or you have not received your taxation notice by the first week of July, please contact the town office.  You can contact the office at:


Rocky Mountain House AB
P.O. Box 1509
Rocky Mountain House, AB T4T 1B2

Ph: 403-845-2866
Fx: 403-845-3230

2. How can I find out what another property’s assessed value is?

A limited assessment roll is available online. [HELPFUL HINT:  Open the limited assessment roll and type Ctrl + F. Enter the first four numbers of your address (ie: house number), and hit 'Enter" until the correct address is highlighted.] 

The assessment roll book showing all the assessed values for property within town limits is available for inspection at the Town Office. The office is located at:
Rocky Mountain House AB
P.O. Box 1509
Rocky Mountain House, AB T4T 1B2

3. What should I do if I do not agree with my property assessment?

An assessment appeal is not an appeal for lower taxes it is a claim that you do not agree with the assessed value. Please contact the town office to speak to the property tax clerk who may then also forward your concerns on to the assessor. You can contact the office at:
Rocky Mountain House AB
P.O. Box 1509
Rocky Mountain House, AB T4T 1B2

Ph: 403-845-2866
Fx: 403-845-3230

Please remember even if you file an appeal, you must still pay your taxes. If your payment is not made by the due date, you will be charged late penalties.

If your appeal results in a lower assessed value of your property, a refund of the difference owing will be issued to you as soon as possible.

If your appeal results in an increased assessed property value, you will have 30 days from the date of the appeal board's decision to pay any outstanding amount owing.

4. How long do I have to appeal my assessment?

You have 60 days from the date the tax assessments were mailed out. On your tax notice you will find a final date of complaint shown. All assessment appeals must be filed before that date.

5. Is there an assessment appeal form and fee?

Assessment appeal forms are available online. The cost to file a residential appeal is $50, non-residential appeal is $250. Forms and fees must be filed at the Town Office located at:
Rocky Mountain House AB
P.O. Box 1509
Rocky Mountain House, AB T4T 1B2 Download the assessment appeal form here.

6. When are my taxes due?

The property tax deadline is the last business day of July.   Cash, cheque, bank draft or debit payments are accepted at the town office (5116 50 Ave) during regular business hours, Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

7. What are the penalties for not paying my taxes on time?

The penalties are:

  • August 1:  4%
  • October 1:  6%
  • January 1 of the following year: 10%

8. Where can I find the appeal forms or more information about my options?

A thorough overview of municipal property taxation and assessment is available from the Government of Alberta Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

9. How can I get a tax certificate or a tax search?

Tax Certificates are $20. Tax Searches are $15. Requests can be made by emailing propertytaxes@rockymtnhouse.com or by faxing the Town Office at 403-845-3230.  (Download a Request for Information - Lawyers form).

10. Is there a program to help seniors pay their property taxes?

Eligible senior homeowners can defer all or part of their municipal property taxes with a low-interest home equity loan. This program is administered by the Government of Alberta. You can find out more information about this program at the following link:

Seniors Property Tax Deferral Program