Property owner wants lower taxes
A Penhold resident is calling for a town meeting on June 27 as he targets increasing property taxes.
Ken McCarthy has been living in Penhold for three and a half years. He said his property taxes have increased about $250 a year for the past three years, with this year’s bill ending up at $5,200 on his house assessed at $449,000. He said by way of comparison he’d been paying $3,500 for his home in Red Deer County that he sold for $1.3 million.
“I said to myself, ‘Self, we got to do something,’” he said. The result has been a large sign on wheels he places daily where it can easily be seen by people passing through Penhold southbound on Highway 2A.
When McCarthy first posted the sign on Monday, it read, “Do not buy property in Penhold. Property taxes outrageous.” He shortly thereafter changed the sign to “Town meeting here. Penhold property taxes outrageous.”
The edits came about for a few reasons – McCarthy received a threat and he discovered he’d offended people whose homes are currently on the market in Penhold. McCarthy has heard his original sign helped lose a sale for sellers.
“I didn’t mean to do any harm,” McCarthy said. So he changed his sign because he wants to create awareness and motivate the public to engage the town on these issues.
Within the first four hours of putting his first sign up, McCarthy had 33 signatures on a petition. He was up to 50 on the morning of June 22, though several people will need to re-sign the petition as the initial wording wasn’t legally viable.
People have been pulling into McCarthy’s yard to chat about the issue – he estimated about 150 people had stopped between Monday and Friday morning. Others give him the thumbs-up as they drive by, though he said others have thrown less complimentary hand gestures his way.
McCarthy said he would like to see a shakeup in town council and the chief administrative officer staffing.
“There needs to be a huge change,” McCarthy said. “They think this town is going to run off the homeowner … the direction they’re going is wrong.”
He highlighted the Penhold Regional Multiplex and the new high school as projects that he said Penhold taxpayers are on the hook for. He raised concerns about the amount of staff the town employs and said there is a “horrendous amount of wasted money.”
“We need young business people running this town,” he said.
McCarthy said he’d like to see more commercial business in town. He said he believes town council is anti-commercial.
Penhold Mayor Dennis Cooper said McCarthy is exercising his right to free speech.
“His taxes are at a level he’s not happy with,” Cooper said. He said of the $250 increase to McCarthy’s property tax bill, $150 of it was for municipal purposes while $100 of it was because of the increase to the education requisition from the province. While municipalities collect the education requisition with their property taxes, they have no control over the amount set by the provincial government.
Cooper said he’d been to see McCarthy twice since the sign went up.
“I said, ‘What services do you want to cut?’” Cooper said. He said while he’d “love” to see taxes go down to a rate like $3,500, the town is barred from running a deficit.
Residential tax rates went up 4.75 per cent in Penhold this year and Cooper said about half of that was due to the increased education requisition.
“Nobody likes to see taxes go up,” Cooper said.
Cooper said the sign could scare off people or businesses looking to move to Penhold. He mentioned the alleged lost home sale because of the original sign.
“The town gets revenue for growth,” Cooper said, adding if the town doesn’t grow it puts more of the tax burden on residents.
Cooper responded to McCarthy’s wish to see a change in council members and the chief administrative officer position.
“It’s very disappointing that Mr. McCarthy thinks that way,” Cooper said. “He definitely feels one of the problems is our CAO, which is unfortunate.”
As for the town meeting scheduled for June 27 at McCarthy’s house, Cooper said he has a previous obligation with school awards and will try to attend afterwards.
Town council tries to host opportunities for public input through events like coffee with council, Cooper said.
McCarthy’s scheduled the public meeting for June 27 at 7 p.m. on his property, which is just three houses south of the Fas Gas on Highway 2A in Penhold.