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EDITORIAL: Taxes paid but that doesn’t stop bill

Many Okotoks residents are likely unaware that paying their property taxes doesn't mean they won't get a bill for fire department services should they require them.
NEWS-Cimarron Rollovertmp_1661381667122
Firefighters on scene at a single vehicle rollover accident on Cimarron Drive at Cimarron Close on Aug. 24

Just because you cut a cheque for your property tax bill annually, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve paid for all the civic services you might consume. 

This situation was brought to light recently when a resident in Cimarron received a $1,500 invoice for services rendered by the fire department following her daughter’s car accident this summer. She thought, as we suspect many people do, that paying your property taxes means you’ll get firefighters’ assistance should you ever need it — without incurring additional costs. 

Given the Town’s own website itemizes how your tax dollars are spent, including to cover the costs of emergency services, it would make perfect sense to think you wouldn’t have to pay any more should that time ever come. 

That's not the case. 

The scenario in which you’re on the hook for fire department services after a car crash has been likened to that of recreation amenities: you pay property taxes to fund swimming pools and ice rinks, but if you want to use them, you’re required to pay a drop-in fee. That’s true but going for a skate or a swim is at your own discretion, whereas calling the fire department when flames are shooting from the roof of your home or because you’ve skidded into a ditch tends to be less of a choice. 

Council members, who acknowledged that issuing an invoice for fire department services might not be widely known, had an opportunity to do away with the concept last week, but given the revenue implications of such a move, they opted against doing so. 

These bills are often covered by insurance, so it can be a moot point in many cases, but on occasions when they’re not looked after, it adds insult to injury. 

The policy could also inadvertently create a scary situation: The absolute last thing you’d want to happen is for someone not to call emergency services because they’re worried they’re going to be stuck with a big bill.