Without the knowledge of Council, the Town of Maple Creek did not submit education tax correctly in 2018, a meeting of commercial rate payers heard.
It meant the municipality was ineligible for grant applications until the issue was resolved, the Chamber of Commerce “Let’s Talk Taxes” forum at the Armoury was told.
Councillor Cara Teichroeb said the Town could not receive gas tax or revenue sharing, two items important for capital projects and operational costs.
“So, we ran without that, having no idea that those bills were not being paid,” she said. “That cost us every grant application that came through the pipes last year … because if you don’t pay that we are ineligible to apply for any grant.”
Councillor Teichroeb said around $740,000 in education tax was not submitted
The issue was initially raised at the August 4 meeting by Michelle McKenzie, the Mayor.
She was responding to the following question from a commercial rate payer: 2018 and 2019 audited revenues were both under 5.8 million. 2020 has not yet been published, when can we expect to see this?
There were two additional parts to the question: a) A well-managed business would want to have the audited report done within four months of year end, is it not concerning that we are now into August without a proper set of audited financials? b) The 2021 published budget summary shows budgeted revenues to be 7.9 million. What is the reason for the highly increased expenses?
Gary Schlageter, the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, said the 2020 financial statement would be published when it was in the Town’s hands.
“The auditor has not finished the financial statement. So, when we get it, the public will get it.”
McKenzie said the Town’s 2020 audit didn’t start until June because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everything had to be sent in by paper, files, boxes, everything else,” she said.
McKenzie went on to chronicle events: the former Chief Administrative Officer was let go in April, 2020; Michele Schmidt helped out as Acting CAO; Schmidt tutored Kerrie Chabot (Chief Executive Officer) on getting information for the 2020 audit; owing to COVID-19, the auditor was unable to visit Maple Creek until May.
On the education tax return in 2018, McKenzie said it had not been handled correctly.
“The former CAO in 2018 filed and there were still things that needed to be finished,” she said.
She added that in March, 2020, letters arrived saying how much was owed in education tax.
“We then asked the CAO at the time to see what could be done to correct those things and get them straightened out that wasn’t completed. Our former CAO was let go in April, 2020.”
McKenzie said Michele Schmidt had taught office staff how to use an online program for figuring out educational tax.
“Your educational tax is then done online and is due on the 10th of each month.”
The Mayor said everything was now in order and the Town could be receiving a $30,000 rebate in educational tax.
When the 2020 audit was completed and accepted in Council, it would be made available to the public, she added.
The meeting at the Armoury was attended by about 100 people. Questions had been submitted beforehand.
They were put to a panel including McKenzie, Teichroeb and Councillors Jill Roy, Al Fournier, Betty Abbott, and Len Barkman. Schlageter, the CAO, was also present.
• A public meeting on the Town’s finances will be held on Wednesday, September 8, at the Armoury, starting at 7pm.
Town Council will have prepared information regarding municipal taxes, water rates, plans for a new community swimming pool, and finances from the last four years.
Mayor and Council are asking residents to submit questions for Council to answer at the meeting.
Questions can be submitted to Gary Schlageter, the Chief Administrative Officer, by email: email@example.com; or a written letter to the Town Office. Submissions will be accepted until 4pm on September 3.