By Cole Parkinson
The Town of Vauxhall has been discussing their Fortis Alberta franchise fee as they decide whether to make changes to their agreement.
The councillors had a chance to discuss the positives and negatives with the fee and whether or not they want to continue, keep it the same or raise the percentage at their usual meeting on Sept. 18.
Presently the fee is at two per cent but the discussion of raising the fee moving forward was brought up at the meeting the council had projections if they raised the fee to four per cent which would raise the town’s profits to around $32,000.
“His (councillor Martin Kondor) suggestion was to go for a higher rate. For one thing it enables you to get more money out of those you are not able to tax otherwise, that’s the reality of it,” said deputy mayor Richard Phillips.
Councillor Kondor wasn’t able to attend the meeting but both deputy mayor Phillips and mayor Margaret Plumtree voiced his opinions on the matter.
“What Martin was saying was that you have control over your taxes to a certain extent, if you don’t want to pay a lot of taxes, you turn your lights off and you make your kids turn their lights off whereas our frontage tax or whatever you want to call it that’s no matter what,” said Plumtree.
The agreement with Fortis states “Fortis will pay to each municipality each month, in accordance with the franchise agreements between FortisAlberta and the municipalities, the franchise fee revenue collected from the retailers.”
The maximum fee that can be charged is 20 per cent and a few of the municipalities in agreements with Fortis are charging 20 per cent, one of them being Taber.
If the Town does decide to raise the franchise fee, they will see a bump in revenue but at the cost of the community.
Not every councillor had made up their mind yet as the decision will have good and bad effects on the town.
“The biggest concern that I still have with this is the fact that it does potentially hit large electrical users for more than their share of the basic taxes, it has nothing to with electricity it’s just a way to collect a tax and make somebody else, Fortis, look like the bad guy instead of us and there’s nothing wrong with that but it does hit large electrical users more heavily,” said Phillips. “If there are any businesses in town that electricity consumption is an important part of their process then it would hit them harder.”
Due to councillor Kondor’s absence from the meeting, the board passed a motion to table the issue until the next meeting on Oct. 2.
They also added to the motion to get input from the Vauxhall Business Society before making their final verdict. Council has until Nov. 1 to make a decision.