Mayor of Cold Lake, Craig Copeland, says the city is experiencing a large increase of homeowners not able or defaulting on their property taxes. The Mayor reports that the increase is a “few hundred percent” up from last year and it’s a sad display of the economic situation. The Mayor worries that with rumours of more oilfield layoffs in the future the situation is only going to get worse for the oil-driven community.
“Unfortunately, we’re seeing a lot more of these things come in front of Council,” Mayor Copeland says it’s quite alarming at the number of properties unable to pay their taxes. The City says that by the end of March there will be 60 properties that have not paid their taxes and face forfeiture to the City. “It talks to the struggle people are having with the economy and job losses. We’re seeing an increase of homeowners unable to pay their property taxes.”
“We’re seeing numbers that have increased by a couple hundred percent. We might’ve had about 12, or so, last year at this time.” The Mayor is sympathetic to the struggle, “the fact that we’ve had lots of people lose their jobs, housing prices were high and therefore the mortgage was high. People are struggle to pay their property tax, let alone their mortgage.”
It’s tough times and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. – Craig Copeland Mayor of Cold Lake
Mayor Copeland says Council had prepared themselves for this situation in the fall during budget deliberations, “we held the line on property tax increase and we did free transit. We knew a lot of people were out of work. We saw the tea leaves, and that’s why Council dug in, ‘how can we make the city more liveable?’ Now, we’re starting to see evidence of what we were thinking in the fall and now we’re seeing evidence from Administration that we have 60 properties that come the end of March need to deal with their property taxes and arrears.”
The City hopes to hold the line on property taxes, with no increases, thanks to the revenue coming in from ID-349, Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. “In our area, we’re one of the highest taxed municipalities. But over the last few years, we’re really worked hard not to increase taxes at all. We’re trying to do our best on Council to hold the bottom-line. Administration is doing their best to make sure that expenditures are prudent.”
If property owners default on their taxes, their homes could be forfeited to the municipalities, says Mayor Copeland. “We’re just following the rules, Municipal Government Act, It’s pretty serious. It’s one of the many stories that’s not being told right now, people’s ability to pay their property taxes.”
It’s really hitting Cold Lake hard. We’re seeing some families really struggling. – Craig Copeland Mayor of Cold Lake
Property owners who are in theft of defaulting on their property taxes should first speak with their banks, advises Mayor Copeland. There have been some cases of City Administration working with property owners to work out a payment plan for back-taxes; though the Mayor suggests that the first step would be to approach your bank.