Rocky View County (RVC) council approved its annual recreation special tax for the hamlet of Langdon on April 25, but also asked questions of County staff if such a special tax, or another tax mechanism, could be applied toward capital construction of the future Langdon Recreation Centre.
Division 7 (Langdon) Coun. Al Schule kicked off the discussion by asking RVC executive director of corporate services Kent Robinson about the special tax.
“One of the reasons the special tax came up was to try to go toward a capital project, and I am just trying to figure out a way to, if there is extra money left over, make it go into some other mechanism where we can put it toward a capital project,” Schule said.
In response, Robinson acknowledged there was some ambiguity in the Municipal Government Act (MGA) about a special tax, but his staff had determined it was not ideal to carry over any funds as such a tax was supposed to be collected for a specific purpose.
“In the past, that is how we used to do it,” Robinson said. “We used to generate X amount on a given year, and then we possibly spend it, or possibly not. We did seek some advice in terms of the interpretation of the (MGA)… We felt the safest way to not be offside with Municipal Government Act is to make sure we have specific uses for the funds we are generating rather than generating the funds and figuring what we are going to use it for in the future.”
Robinson went on to explain the County receives requests from local organizations in Langdon at the end of each year who want to utilize special recreation tax dollars, and then sets its yearly special tax quota and rate based on those requests.
Division 4 Coun. Samanntha Wright said she didn’t understand why Robinson was so “vehemently opposed” to carrying over excess or unused recreation funds for another recreation purpose in Langdon.
“I am not understanding what the reservation is about having a surplus,” she asked. “We know Langdon is growing. We know the need is growing as it is growing. I am not following why you are so vehemently opposed to creating a bit of a rainy day fund (in Langdon) for things we know are going to be needed.”
Robinson explained it would be better if council wanted to collect special tax dollars for a future recreation centre to wait until the rec centre is funded through a loan, and then apply a special tax in Langdon to make those annual loan payments, rather than saving up when it was uncertain when the recreation centre will actually be constructed.
Division 6 Coun. and Deputy Reeve Sunny Samra asked for clarification on what a special recreation tax is used for in Langdon, and why it exists outside of the County’s general recreation funds set aside for all residents.
Robinson explained the tax was set up because residents of Langdon – one of the first hamlets in RVC to densify – requested it in order to receive a higher level of municipal service.
“We had a standard on how we maintained our parks and those types of things throughout the county. Folks in the hamlet stood up and said through the local councillor that, ‘We want a higher level of service,’” he said. “The tax was then implemented to provide funding for that higher level of service, and it has just continued on from that point.”
Division 3 Coun. and Reeve Crystal Kissel said it wasn’t just about capital spending in her mind, but about creating a reserve fund through potential surpluses generated through Langdon’s special recreation tax to help pay for those extra costs, which will come with the eventual furnishing and supplying of the future recreation centre.
“I am really interested in seeing how we could have this tax carried forward with a commitment toward the recreation centre,” she said. “We are constantly hearing that the residents would like to see that.”
However, Coun. Schule felt council should not rush to set up a special tax recreation reserve in his hamlet until all potential funding models are fully explored and considered.
“I know we need to do something, but I think I don’t want to rush it,” he argued. “But I definitely understand we have to put some money toward some (Langdon) capital projects.”
Deputy Reeve Samra wondered aloud if a special recreation tax for Langdon’s new recreation centre would just be levied from hamlet residents, or from all nearby county residents who would have use of the facility.
Robinson said there were precedents for such regional special taxes in the County’s history, and it would be an option his staff would explore alongside others once it came time to obtain loans for the Langdon recreation centre’s capital construction phase.
“Just as an example, when we built our first fire hall in Springbank near the airport, we used a special tax as a funding source because it moved from a volunteer station to a manned (full time) station,” Robinson explained. “So the area we identified was the response area, and we implemented a special tax in that area.”
In the end, Schule opted for the time being to just seek approval of the usual recreation special tax for Langdon residents, which this year will be a total of $60,800 divvied up between all local ratepayers. His motion passed unanimously.