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2017 December

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1. Municipal Administrator's Corner

Key Tasks in December and January

December

  • Review section 369 of The Municipalities Act (MA) regarding adding amounts to the tax roll. Although the amounts to be added under this section can be made at any time during the year, you may wish to add them to your year-end review processes. An example is a review of the utility arrears (clause 369(1)(b) of MA). If arrears are to be added to taxes, issue notice to affected owners and tenants. Remember, notice must be sent by registered mail at least 30 days before amounts are to be added to the tax roll, and a council resolution or council policy is required to authorize the addition of the arrears to the tax roll.
  • On December 31, unpaid amounts for custom work may be added to taxes (section 405 of MA).
  • On December 31, amounts for another municipality to provide emergency service may be added to taxes (section 42(3) of MA).
  • On December 31, modifications to the assessment roll to reflect current year’s changes must be completed.
  • Check your budget and actual expenditures to ensure all transfers to and from reserves are completed.
  • Review your year to date operating and capital costs and, if needed, amend the operating or capital budget. Municipal councils should begin discussions about the 2018 budget if they have not already done so.
  • Review any Tax Discount and Penalty Bylaw and ensure appropriate changes are made to software.
  • Ensure your audit date has been confirmed with your auditor.
  • Review CRA threshold amounts to ensure all income tax, CPP and EI remittances required for council members, volunteer fire fighters, and any others have been submitted.
  • Review accounts to identify any PST payable.
  • Review GST receivables for claims.
  • Check all minutes, bylaws and invoices to ensure all required signatures and approvals are in place.
  • Review signing authorities and appointments such as committee, municipal officials (building inspector, pest control officer, bylaw enforcement officer, etc.), auditor, solicitor, etc.

January

  • Review Board of Revision appointments early in the year to ensure expired appointments are updated.
  • Present the Administrator’s bond at the first meeting in January.
  • By January 20, rural municipalities are required to provide the Organized Hamlet Board with a statement of revenue and expenditures.
  • By January 31, municipalities are required to register tax liens as a result of tax enforcement.

Remember that a detailed legislative and operational calendar is available online.

Education Property Tax Filing Changes
Changes in Education Property Tax (EPT) filing will be effective January 1, 2018. Read the story about EPT changes in this edition of Municipalities Today.

Municipalities may want to consider adopting a bylaw to authorize EPT collections outside of a council meeting to avoid the new fines and penalties. This bylaw would be similar to what you may already have for payment of salaries, payroll remittances, and utility billings. View a sample Expenditure Authorization bylaw.

Saskatchewan Municipalities and the Canadian Free Trade Agreement and the Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union (EU)
Previous editions of Municipalities Today described how Saskatchewan municipalities would be affected by the changes resulting from recent Canadian trade agreements:

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2. Assistance for Wildfire Loss

Rural municipalities can apply for designation under Provincial Disaster Assistance Program (PDAP) if farmers and ranchers within their municipality were impacted by grassfires that burned uninsurable grazing land in the province’s southwest this fall. (Read this fact sheet for more information.)

Municipalities must receive a designation from PDAP before their local farmers and ranchers can apply for assistance for extra-ordinary feeding costs incurred by producers and transportation costs associated with the extra-ordinary feed and/or pasture rental, supported by receipts.

Once the municipality receives designation, affected farmers and ranchers must provide the necessary documentation with their application as outlined in the 2017 PDAP General Claim Guidelines and meet all PDAP’s eligibility criteria including:

  • The annual gross revenues for the agricultural operation must be at least $4,000 but not more than $2.0 million.
  • The operation must have less than 20 full-time employees.
  • Proof of ownership of damaged property must be provided.
  • 2016 Income must show income from livestock.
  • Any of the damages incurred by an eligible claimant are not recoverable at law or from another government program.

Additional information concerning how local authorities can apply to be approved for PDAP support can be found on www.saskatchewan.ca website.

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3. 2018-19 Gravel Extraction Licence Maximum Fee Rates

Municipalities can pass a bylaw to charge gravel crushers and extractors a gravel extraction licence fee. Formulas found in Section 8.1 of The Municipalities Regulations set out the maximum fee a municipality may establish. The formula was implemented in 2008 and is used to update the maximum fee every two years.

Effective January 1, 2018, the maximum gravel extraction licence fee rates for 2018 and 2019 will be:

  • $0.165 per cubic metre
  • $0.126 per cubic yard
  • $0.089 per cubic tonne
  • $0.082 per ton

The fees above are based on the annual percentage change for the “all-items” Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Saskatchewan for the year, two years before the first year the rate comes into effect. The rate increase for 2018 represents a CPI inflation rate of 1.6 percent in 2015 and 1.10 percent in 2016.

The current gravel extraction licence maximum fee rates are posted in Roads and Streets Construction and Maintenance. Call 306-787-2680 and speak to a Municipal Advisor if you have questions about these rates.

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4. Gas Tax Fund Signage Requirements

Signage is part of your Municipal Gas Tax Fund Agreement and helps people recognize federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) investments in your community.

Usually signs are in place 30 days before construction starts, and remain until 30 days after your infrastructure project is completed. The cost of signs manufactured and installed according to Infrastructure Canada’s (INFC) guidelines are an eligible project cost.

Guidelines
INFC created guidelines for sign design, content and installation for projects funded by the GTF. Canada takes a flexible, common sense approach to signs. Project managers can choose the right type, size and nature of signage based on their specific project(s).

Physical Signs
The use and size of physical signs should be based on the project’s scope and size, duration and cost. In general, a sign for a project funded by the GTF is required:

  • when the federal contribution is over $100,000;
  • where there is visible construction; and
  • where an installed sign is visible to the public.

In some cases, an interior sign placed in a lobby or a sign installed in a community gathering place may be a good alternative to an outdoor sign.

Digital Signs
In some cases, you can use a digital sign (either on your project’s website or in social media) to recognize your project. You can also use digital signs with physical signs if you wish.

Reporting
Each year, Saskatchewan submits a report to Canada about the signs installed for infrastructure projects using federal Gas Tax Funds. Once you are ready to display your physical or digital sign to the public, please email gastaxprogram@gov.sk.ca so we can record that you have fulfilled this requirement of your agreement. Include a photograph and/or digital link to your sign, as indicated in this checklist you can follow.

Questions and Support
INFC has online resources to help you with all your sign-related questions on their website and can review your sign’s design before it is made. Please contact Infrastructure Canada at:

      Email: INFC.Signs-Panneaux.INFC@Canada.ca
      Telephone: 613-948-1148
      Toll Free Number: 1-877-250-7154
      TTY: 1-800-465-7735

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5. Civic Address Registry Training

The Civic Address Registry (CAR) is a province-wide standardized system of identifying and locating homes and business. The registry helps dispatchers and emergency responders (such as police, fire and ambulance) to find your property quickly. CAR is especially important when emergency responders are unfamiliar with an area, or when the emergency cannot be seen easily.

In response to overwhelming demand, additional free webinars are available for rural and urban administrators, scheduling into January and February 2018. Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis since the training is customized to the communities participating in the webinars.

To register for any of the free webinars listed below, first set up an account on the Civic Address Registry website. (Download this checklist for information on how to create an account.) Then email caradmin@pa911.com indicating which of the following webinars you wish to attend.

Level 1 – Overview and Address Validation
Time: 1.5 hours
Registration limit: 3 communities per session
Description:
Learn detailed information about CAR, its benefits to public safety and the specific workflow steps when participating in civic addressing. Also included is information regarding signage, responsibilities of the community and of Sask911, and community address status and address maintenance. As this session is customized to your community, you will identify what addresses may be missing and will discuss the best practices when validating civic addressing.

Level 2 – Road Name Update Process
Time: 1 hour
Registration limit: 3 communities per webinar
Prerequisite: You should this training shortly after completing Level 1.
Description:
Gain insight on how Saskatchewan road data is maintained and how its upkeep is important to the effectiveness of Sask911. As this session is customized to your community, you will get help to identify any road discrepancies, to identify key agencies involved in the update process, and be provided the information and tools you need to ensure that your community roads are up to date for the benefit of public safety.

Level 3 – Website Address Updates
Time: 2 hours
Registration limit: 1 community per webinar
Prerequisite: Level 1 and 2 training, plus completion of civic address validation and finalized road updates for your community
Description:
This one-on-one training provides detailed instruction on how to use the online CAR Web Mapping Application to update your civic addresses. Examples specific to your community are used to demonstrate the tools and functionality of the application as well as editing best practices. You will need an ‘Editor’ account for this training.

Call the Provincial Help Desk at 1-844-407-0077 or email caradmin@pa911.com if you have questions about the above webinars or the Civic Address Registry program.

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6. Changes to Filing and Paying 2018 Monthly Education Property Tax Returns

As part of the 2017-18 Budget, a key change to the Education Property Tax (EPT) system is that EPT collected by municipalities will be paid to the provincial government’s General Revenue Fund instead of to school divisions, starting in 2018. Your monthly EPT return will now be filed electronically with the Ministry of Finance starting with the January 2018 monthly EPT return. The January 2018 EPT return and payment is due by February 10, 2018.

Filing your Monthly EPT using the Saskatchewan Electronic Tax Service (SETS)
Beginning with 2018, municipalities will be required to use the Saskatchewan Electronic Tax Service (SETS) to file their monthly EPT returns. This will begin for the January 2018 EPT return by February 10, 2018. All monthly returns will be entered into SETS. Municipal administrators should have received a User ID and password in two separate letters at the end of October. If you have not received these, please call the Ministry of Finance at 1-800-667-6102 or send an email to sasktaxinfo@gov.sk.ca. Read the “Transition to the new EPT System” in this article for filing the December 2017 monthly EPT return in January 2018.

SETS testing occurred during the month of November and it is now closed. We are compiling user responses to the testing and will make any adjustments necessary based on the feedback survey. It appears that many municipalities had success in testing the system. Should you encounter issues in early 2018, please contact the Ministry of Finance at 1-800-667-6102 or sasktaxinfo@gov.sk.ca. Instructional webinars were held in November and many municipalities signed up for these.

Separate School Divisions that choose to set their own mill rate for EPT
EPT returns will also be sent by the municipality to separate school divisions when a municipality is collecting EPT for a separate school division that has established its own EPT rates by bylaw. Municipalities will continue to collect and remit funds to the separate school board directly when a bylaw is in place. The monthly return submitted in SETS will be for information purposes only in this circumstance.

Penalties and Interest
Monthly EPT returns are due by the 10th of the month following the reporting period. To avoid penalty and interest, submit the completed return and payment to Finance by the due date (including nil returns). Penalty and interest charges are applied to taxes that are not remitted by the due date. These charges are necessary to ensure that taxes are collected and remitted on time.

A penalty of 10 per cent of the EPT payable, to a maximum of $500 is applied to each return period. In addition, there is a $75 penalty for failure to remit a return. Interest is charged at the prime interest rate plus 3 per cent from the date the EPT was to have been remitted.

Municipalities should consider adopting a municipal bylaw or policy to authorize that EPT collected for the month can be paid by the due date rather than waiting for a council meeting. Establishing this process will help to avoid the new fines and penalties for late payment. This bylaw would be similar to what you may already have in place for payment of salaries, payroll remittances, utility billings, etc. A sample Expenditure-Authorization bylaw is available online.

Transition to the new EPT System

  • 2017 Monthly Returns (Form H2)
    The EPT that municipalities collect in December 2017 will be remitted directly to school divisions in January 2018. The December 2017 monthly EPT return will be filed using the existing process. Please complete Form H2 and send a copy of the form to the appropriate school division and the Ministry of Government Relations. The December 2017 monthly EPT return is due on January 10, 2018.
  • 2017 Annual EPT Return (Form H)
    Please note that the 2017 annual EPT return will be filed using the existing process. Please complete Form H and send a copy of the form to the appropriate school division, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Government Relations. The 2017 annual EPT return is due on January 15, 2018.
  • Interim Return
    Beginning January 1, 2018, the Interim return, usually submitted in September, is no longer required.

EPT Exemptions and Abatements
The rules about granting an exemption or abatement for EPT have changed starting in the 2018 taxation year.

  1. Any multiyear exemptions that have been granted by a municipal council prior to January 1, 2018, under previous legislation, will continue. Existing agreements will run their course until they expire, after which the new legislation will apply. The Education Property Tax Act comes into effect January 1, 2018.
  2. Council may continue to enter into multiyear exemption agreements for EPT. The agreement must exempt EPT in the same percentage as municipal tax. The agreement must be for 5 years or less.
  3. Council may continue to use multiyear abatement policies or programs for EPT for a specified time period in accordance with the Municipal Acts.
  4. Municipal council can choose to exempt/abate EPT taxes in the same percentage as municipal tax on an annual basis.
  5. If the EPT portion of the proposed abatement/exemption for a single property or parcel of land will result in EPT loss of $25,000 or more for the tax year, the municipality must seek prior provincial approval annually. If the EPT amount is less than this threshold, no provincial approval is required.
    • Multi-year agreements between the municipality and the province for exemptions and abatements (no more than 5 years) are possible, so EPT treatment is consistent with municipal property tax.
    • The municipality must submit any information requested in the agreement to the province.
    • The province can terminate the agreement if:
      1. the municipality fails to comply with the terms and conditions of the agreement; or
      2. the minister considers it necessary and in the public interest to do so.
  6. If a municipality chooses to exempt/abate more than 5 per cent of the total EPT levy within that municipality for the year, the province will undertake an audit and approval process of the abatements and exemptions given.

Note: Providing property tax exemptions will remain a local choice at this time, subject to the above approval requirements. Providing property tax exemptions means less tax revenue for essential public services, or a potential taxation shift to other properties and owners. Local governments understand the unique needs and circumstances of residents in their municipality. However, if future EPT exemption and abatement trends begin to significantly increase, causing a large loss of revenue and taxation shift, the province will reconsider the rules and thresholds established for the EPT exemption/abatement approval process.

EPT Exemption and Abatement Approval Process
When a municipality seeks approval from the province to exempt or abate EPT revenue that is over the $25,000 threshold or more than 5 per cent of the total EPT levy, the target will be to make the decision within 15 business days after receiving all pertinent information.

Applications will be sorted into three main categories:

  1. Economic Development
  2. Housing
  3. Non-Profit/ Community based organization

A fourth category called “Other” may be used if an unusual or unprecedented circumstance arises that is not captured in one of the three main categories. Applications submitted under this category will be assessed case by case based on their merits.

An application form is being developed at this time to ensure that key information required is captured during the application process. The application form, applicable criteria for each of the three categories and information required to accompany the application form will be available online soon. This information will also be distributed to municipalities in January, 2018.

Regulations
Regulations have been adopted under The Education Property Tax Act, addressing EPT exemptions and abatements, among other things. These will be available shortly.

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7. Adoption of National Building Code 2015 and National Fire Code 2015

This fall, the province amended The Uniform Building and Accessibility Standards Regulations and The Fire Safety Regulations in order for the National Building Code 2015 (NBC 2015) and the National Fire Code 2015 (NFC 2015) to come into force on January 1, 2018.

The National Energy Code for Buildings 2015 (NECB 2015) and NBC 2015 Section 9.36 – Energy Efficiency Standards will not be adopted at this time. The Ministry of Government Relations will consult major stakeholder groups in 2018 to determine effective, Saskatchewan appropriate ways to apply the energy standards beginning January 1, 2019.

You can purchase copies of the NBC 2015, NFC 2015, and NECB 2015 from the National Research Council. The Saskatchewan Amendments to the NBC 2015 and NFC 2015 will be posted shortly under “Legislation” in the Publications Saskatchewan website.

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8. Ask a Planner

This month’s “Ask a Planner” column is the second article in a series of questions about municipal reserve. Contact the Community Planning branch if you have any questions on municipal reserves, or if you wish to suggest topics for future columns.

Question:
“How can a municipality’s official community plan help manage municipal reserves?”

Answer:
Planning bylaws play an important role in achieving a community’s recreation objectives. The Planning and Development Act, 2007 (PDA) and The Statements of Provincial Interest Regulations (SPI) recognize the role recreation plays in enhancing quality of life in our communities. This article focuses specifically on how to fulfill section 32 of the PDA and subsection 6.9 of the SPI.

Subsection 32(2) of the PDA requires official community plans (OCPs) to contain policies regarding the coordination of land use with adjacent municipalities. A municipality may include an inter-municipal policy for the use and development of municipal reserve land for recreation purposes within their OCP as one method of achieving this PDA requirement. Under subsection 32(3) of the PDA, an OCP may contain a map or a series of maps that denote current or future land use or policy areas. This means municipalities may include maps illustrating current and future recreation areas in their OCP.

Subsection 6.9 of the SPI requires planning bylaws to identify future open space and recreation needs for the community, and to include a broad strategy to meet those needs. A municipality can achieve this objective by including policies in their OCP regarding:

  • when to accept municipal reserve land through the subdivision of land and when to defer it;
  • when to collect cash in lieu of land;
  • how cash in lieu may be calculated; and
  • where the cash from the dedicated land should be directed.

Overall, well-written recreation policies free up council’s time, and make decisions concerning municipal reserve or spending of cash in lieu administrative, predictable and transparent.

Additional information on this topic can be found by visiting Community Planning, Land Use and Development.

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