Council shot down changes to its taxing system that if approved Tuesday, would have required residents to pay taxes multiple times a year.
While property taxes would still be paid by the end of June, taxes for sewer, water, and solid waste utilities would be taken out of the property tax bill and paid separately twice a year.
Dennis Brodie, the city’s finance administration supervisor, said city staff were recommending council make the change in order for the city to have money coming in throughout the year.
“In an effort to reduce the city’s reliance on accumulated surpluses in the water and sewer operating funds early in the fiscal year, it is recommended that the city move to a semi-annual billing cycle for utilities (water, sewer and solid waste),” Brodie said in his report to council. “Moving to a semi-annual billing system will allow rate payers to better differentiate between property taxes and utility fees.”
But Brodie noted the new system would be a disadvantage for those who have a property tax payment plan through their mortgage provider whereby the mortgage company pays the sewer, water and solid waste fees on behalf of their client through their property taxes.
Brodie said the mortgage brokers would no longer be making the utility payments and the onus would fall to the tax payer to manage their savings.
Brodie outlined that moving to the semi-annual payment structure would also cost the city a one-time fee of $22,000 to set up the billing program, plus a $20,000 annual cost for additional staff to process what would be more frequent tax payments coming in.
In the end, that was too rich for Coun. Andy Adams.
“I appreciate staff bringing this forward but I don’t see a real financial advantage for us in doing this right now, particularly in light of the fact we’re going into financial planning on Monday,” Adams said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “To incur additional ongoing operating expenses at this time is premature.”
The rest of council agreed and rejected moving to the semi-annual payment system. Council did, however, vote to continue with the implementation of a pre-authorized withdrawal system which would allow the city to direct debit tax payers’ accounts.