Tax increase in Candle Lake disputed by former mayor

Photo courtesy of the Resort Village of Candle Lake.

A Resort Village of Candle Lake resident is wondering why he saw a large increase in his property taxes this year.

Borden Wasyluk, who previously served as mayor of Candle Lake, claims that he saw a a 38 per cent tax increase on his two properties which led his actual bill go up by around $900.

According to documents at the Village of Candle Lake website, the Mill Rate stayed the same in 2021 as it did in 2020 at three mills. The mill rate factor residential decreased from 1.12 in 2020 to 1 in 2021, the commercial factor increases from 1.44 to 2.12, the base tax residential increases from $325 to $650 and the base tax commercial increased from $425 to $845.

This will result in an increase in Tax Levy Revenue from $2,251,092.00 in 2020 to $2,714,124.00 in 2021. The early payment discount rate was set at five per cent, which was a decrease from 20 per cent the previous year.

Wasyluk’s complaint was about the increase in the base tax, but he also didn’t like how frontage was not taken into account in calculations.

“The thing about the base tax is it’s very very unfair,” he said.

“You get into the industrial area where the sizes of the property vary and there is probably people with 1,000 frontage feet and those with 50, 60 frontage feet and the base tax went up $850 on the lot, So the amount of frontage feet you have has not been taken into account and I just don’t understand how everybody can be treated the same that way.

“Nine hundred and some dollars, in my case, it’s for two separate properties, but that’s ludicrous. The fact is that the base tax is not properly placed. Why should a guy with the 50 foot lot frontage pay the same as somebody with 1,000? Let’s get it by frontage foot. Let’s be fair about this.”

Current Mayor Terry Kostyna rejected the idea that the process was unfair. He said it was about providing the same basic service to everyone.

“We are a large geographic area—being some 30 kilometres from one end to the other and physically the size of Prince Albert. Along with the number of properties that factors into all of the challenges, we felt that we needed to provide that level of service to everybody and it’s a basic thing.”

In the budget speech posted on the Village’s website, it was noted that the prior five years reduction in taxes created a shortfall in revenue necessary for daily operations and municipal infrastructure maintenance. This was the rationale for moving back to the 2016 tax rates.

In documents, the Village stated that there has been a significant reduction in taxes resulting in a shortfall in revenue required for necessary daily operations and repairs to municipal infrastructure.

”We needed to get to a balanced budget and it was determined the base tax component was necessary to get to that balanced budget,” Kostyma explained. “We simply felt that the simplest easiest way was just to go back to 2016 (tax levels).”

Wasyluk said that for the majority of his term, council lowered taxes and decreased the base tax rate.

“I think the base tax initially was not fair and if they were going to increase it, which they did, then treat it fairly go frontage foot or something like that. We’re not all the same. We don’t come out of the same mould,” Wasyluk said.

In their budget documents, council noted that tax reductions compounded by uncommon and unrealistic discounts over the last four and previous years have resulted in too many things just simply left undone or not planned for.

Frontage was not addressed by council because it wasn’t available to communities.

“There are a limited number of tools provided by the municipalities act and frontage isn’t one of them,” Kostyma said.

They said that decision were not made by previous councils served to kick the can down the road and created a problem that needed to be dealt with. The community also adjusted the early payment discount rate and lowered it to five per cent which they say lines up with other communities in the province.

“It’s a retirement community, basically, but a lot of the new homes built built are either for future retirement homes or they are retirement homes. Candle Lake is a retirement community basically,” Wasyluk said.

Wasyluk also wondered what the tax increase would be used for. Before the COVID-19 pandemic the community held subdivision meetings.

He wants to see subdivision by subdivision meetings, or two or three , meetings at a time depending, on the size of the subdivision.

Kosyma explained that council is still working on a new ways to better communicate with residents. In the meantime, they’ve introcuded a new newsletter, and a new Facebook page.

“The uptake on those has been great and positive,” Kosyma said. “We are working on the plan for further engagement with the community, and all of those things will be considered.”

Kosyma added that COVID was one of the reason there was no subdivision meetings this year out of caution.

“We have to be careful when we look around the rest of the world,” he said.

Wasyluk was unphased, and said it’s time for elected officials to listen to the community.

“If you want consultants, your taxpayers should be your consultants,” Wasyluk said,

Wasyluk said previous councils worked hard to decrease taxes four years in a row. He said the community was well off and he could not foresee any imminent plans.

“But we’re not broke. We’re not a pauper community,” Wasyluk said.

Kostyma wondered why Wasyluk had reached out to the media as opposed to calling him personally as his phone number is available on the resort village’s website. Kostyma also observed that generally the 2021 budget received positive reviews, even when it was hotly debated on social media.

The Village of Candle Lake is also implementing a 5-year capital and asset management plan according to Kosyma.

“We are creating a five year capital and operations plan, which to my knowledge hadn’t happened previously. We feel that’s really important to be planning and thinking ahead,” Kosyma said.

Wasyluk was defeated by Kosyma in the most recent election in 2020.