The Town of Crossfield might be taking its public notifications online later this year.
At its Jan. 5 meeting, Crossfield Town council unanimously approved the first two of three readings for an electronic communication bylaw that would establish a process for sending assessment, tax, utility and other public notifications via email. Council will vote on third reading at the Feb. 2 meeting.
“We’re trying to move ahead with doing a lot of things electronically and this is one of them,” said the Town’s finance manager, Lori Heikkila in a presentation to council.
“When I was doing the taxes last year, there were quite a few municipalities that were looking at the process of sending out tax assessments via electronic means. To get it initially started is a lot of work to upload the information, but once the information is in the system, there are a lot of savings, time-wise and money-wise.
According to Heikkila’s presentation, an amendment to Alberta’s Municipal Government Act in 2019 permits municipalities to send public notices, documents and other information to the public electronically.
If the bylaw is ultimately ratified, Crossfield residents will be able to opt into the new service by completing a form sent out by the Town. Signing up indicates consent to receive communications from the municipality electronically.
When opting in to receive assessment and taxation communications, according to the draft bylaw, a taxpayer must ensure the email address they provided in the agreement remains current and is “updated promptly upon any change in such email address.”
Heikkila said her goal, should council approve the bylaw next month, is for half of Crossfield’s taxpayers to sign up for the new service this year, and for 80 per cent of taxpayers to do so in 2022. She said a 50 per cent opt-in rate would result in savings for the Town of approximately $2,000 a year.
“The cost to send out the assessments, yearly, is anywhere between $4,000 and $5,000, between the paper, the envelopes, the postage and administration time,” she said. “We’re trying to save some money in the long run. It will be faster way to get [people] information.”
For taxpayers who do not own computers or use email, Heikkila said they would still be able to continue receiving their communication from the municipality in the mail.
“I know there are [some people] who are not on computers who definitely won’t sign up for this, but I’m hoping we can get, in the next two years, up to 80 per cent,” Heikkila said. “That’s my goal.”
After the presentation, Coun. Kim Harris asked what program the Town would use to manage electronic documents. Heikkila replied the Town uses a software program called MuniWare.
In an email to the Rocky View Weekly after the meeting, the Town of Crossfield's communications/research officer, Christina Waldner, said the bylaw would not impact the municipality's print advertising budget.
Other nearby municipalities that have shifted much of their communication to the public online in recent years include the City of Airdrie, which amended its public notification bylaw in February 2019, and Rocky View County, which did the same in July 2020.