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Council Approves Terms of Reference for Bill 21 Steering Group

(Fort McMurray, AB – November 23, 2016) – Council has approved the terms of reference to create a joint steering group in response to Bill 21.
Bill 21 consists of an extensive set of amendments to the Municipal Government Act. One of the proposed changes in Bill 21 is the establishment of a 5:1 tax ratio between non-residential and residential property tax rates.  The ratio in Wood Buffalo is currently approximately 18:1. 

“Bill 21 still needs to be passed by the provincial government but that doesn’t mean that we can’t start planning for possible outcomes,” said Mayor Melissa Blake. “To ensure the region stays competitive, sustainable and fiscally responsible we need to work more closely with our regional stakeholders than we ever have before. These terms of reference will help create a new steering group that aims to do just that.”

The terms of reference pave the way for the creation of a steering group that will work with industry and other regional stakeholders to develop a collaborative transition plan to move the Municipality toward the 5:1 tax ratio over time. The plan will include opportunities for stakeholder engagement.  

“The terms of reference established by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Council enable a collaborative approach that promotes a sustainable future for industry and the residents in the region,” said Oil Sands Community Alliance Acting Director Ben Brunnen. “OSCA will represent the industry alongside other stakeholders to develop a refreshed approach to municipal planning and budgeting, one that achieves mutual prosperity for both industry and the community over the long-term. When the industry is healthy and can compete – that’s good for Alberta’s economy, that’s good for municipal revenues and that’s good for families in the region.” 

The steering group will propose fiscal management strategies to Council that balance services, spending and taxation in a manner that will: 

a. be competitively adjusted to take into account costs in comparable Alberta municipalities and the cost of doing business and the uniqueness of Wood Buffalo; 
b. recognize urban and rural community needs; 
c. consider and incorporate all debt levels and reserve funds of the municipality and future commitments of RMWB.

The steering group will consist of the Mayor, members of Council, municipal officials and industry leaders. It will recommend a Bill 21 transition plan to Council by January 10, 2017, for implementation in the 2017 fiscal year. If approved by Council the plan would then need to be approved by the Provincial Government. 


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