WHEREAS Alberta Municipal Affairs sets the assessment year modifiers at no set timeline; and
WHEREAS the Municipal Government Act requires municipalities to pass a balanced budget; and
WHEREAS many rural municipalities receive significant revenue from linear properties; and
WHEREAS there has been volatility in linear assessment values in recent years; and
WHEREAS other types of funding have become more uncertain and the need for more timely assessment year modifier information has become more critical to ensure realistic budgets; and
WHEREAS municipalities are often required to develop budgets based on assessment year modifier estimates when final modifier figures are not yet available; and
WHEREAS if the final modifier figures vary from the estimates, the municipality’s budget can be significantly impacted; and
WHEREAS many municipalities pass budgets prior to January 1st of the budget year;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request the Government of Alberta to set the annual date of release of assessment year modifiers at September 15th or the nearest business day afterwards to allow municipalities to be properly informed when making budget decisions.
Assessment year modifiers are mechanisms to adjust the base assessment value of linear and other property types up or down to reflect present costs. Alberta Municipal Affairs sets the assessment year modifiers for valuation on an annual basis. The Minister of Municipal Affairs usually proclaims them in the preceding December of the tax/municipal budget year. Many rural municipalities’ property tax base consists of a large portion of linear tax. This assessment class has experienced large swings and surprises that have made budgeting more difficult especially when the modifiers are released in December. This issue is compounded by the fact that the large swings have been negative in terms of their impacts on assessment and therefore indirectly property tax. 2017’s linear modifiers are an example of this. The Ministry released preliminary numbers indicating a double-digit growth in both pipeline and well head modifiers which are both sub-classes of linear property. However, the modifiers later approved by the Minister were zero. As well, starting with 2019 budgets, there is a new requirement for municipalities to prepare three-year operating statements. Having the information earlier would allow municipalities more time to ensure that they have their revenues in place when passing their balanced budgets.
1-18S: Request for Implementation of the 2018 Assessment Year Modifier for Well and Pipeline Assessments
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) lobby the Government of Alberta to immediately implement the 2018 assessment year modifier to well and pipeline assessments as identified in the draft calculation.
DEVELOPMENT: RMA has not yet received a government response to this resolution.
Alberta Municipal Affairs
The province is aware that municipalities use the Assessment Year Modifiers (AYMs) to inform their budget discussions, and we make every effort to provide draft and final AYMs as soon as possible each year. Any assessment prepared in accordance with the Municipal Government Act must be an estimate of the value of a property on July 1 of the assessment year. Based on this date, the soonest the ministry is able to receive the information required to set AYMs is on, or about, August 31. This timing means that the ministry is only able to provide draft AYMs to municipalities on, or about, September 15.
The Government of Alberta response indicates that due to requirements within the Municipal Government Act requiring assessed values to be based on a July 1 date, the process of gathering and analyzing assessment data and developing the annual assessment year modifier (AYM) cannot be significantly changed. RMA understands the impact of these regulatory requirements.
RMA has followed up with Alberta Municipal Affairs to discuss the possibility of amending the Matters Relating to Assessment And Taxation Regulation to change the July 1 estimate date to allow the finalized AYMs to be shared with municipalities at a date that better aligns with the municipal budget cycle. Alberta Municipal Affairs staff appeared open to considering this change, but no formal action has taken place to date.
In advance of the 2020 tax year, municipalities continue to face uncertainty regarding AYMs and industrial property assessment in general due to the ongoing assessment model review. At this point, there is no information available on how AYMs will be calculated moving forward or how they will align with other aspects of the model being reviewed, such as construction costs and depreciation. This uncertainty is causing municipalities significant planning and budgeting challenges.
Additionally, as this resolution was partly necessitated due to the unexpected freezing of AYMs in late 2017 after draft AYMs were shared earlier in the year with no indication of a possible freeze, Alberta Municipal Affairs should enact a policy or internal requirement that final AYMs can differ by no more than a set percentage from draft AYMs, to allow municipalities with some assurance when drafting budgets prior to receiving final AYMs.
RMA assigns this resolution a status of Intent Not Met, and will work with Alberta Municipal Affairs to develop possible solutions.