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Last updateFri, 20 Apr 2018 5pm

Volunteering not taxing for Wulff

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    Volunteerism is simply freely applying your skills for the betterment of the community. For Bill Wulff, his skill of crunching numbers is helping seniors complete taxes.
    For years Wulff has been volunteering his time to do tax returns for seniors and low-income people in the community. Prior to 2010, when he retired from his position as manager of finance and information systems at the Town of Drumheller, he would do a few simple tax returns for those in need. After his retirement, Family and Community Supports Services (FCSS) set up a program where he could dedicate more time to it.
Before that, he would take the returns home and then come back with them completed. Now leading up to tax time, Wulff sets up in the library on Mondays and seniors can make an appointment to have their taxes done.
        “It became a lot bigger enterprise after that,” he chuckles. “This made it  much easier for me to do it at the library.”
 Often these are simple returns that he is able to complete quickly, as many seniors are not earning income, therefore are not paying taxes.
“The reason that a senior or a low-income person has to get their tax return done is to apply for benefits. If you don’t file your taxes, you don’t get your guaranteed income support supplements, your GST rebate or the Alberta government subsidies,” Wulff explains.
     While leading up to April 30 is his busy time, he finds he is working on them almost year round.
    “If you don’t file by the end of April, your subsidies are cut off at the end of July, so my next big rush is at the end of June,” he said.
    His inspiration to help seniors and low-income residents comes from his desire to make sure they get a fair shake.  
    when he started you had to file manually on paper where he would charge $20. Now a tax return only takes about 15 minutes using computers.
    For a short time, they had signed up with a federal volunteer program, however, it was restrictive to seniors who earned a small amount of income. Tax returns could only be filed under the program in March and April. Because of this, they have opted to do their own program.
    On top of the returns he does at the library, he also takes appointments at Sunshine Lodge and the manors. Annually he completes about 400 tax returns.
    Beyond tax returns, he also volunteers to do audits for local nonprofits, serves on nonprofit boards, volunteers for the MS Walk, and of course, his work at Canada Day lighting up the sky with fireworks.
    He finds value in volunteerism.
“It’s something I enjoy doing. I don’t want to sit at home and get addicted to CNN,” he laughs.
    “It’s giving back to the community, but it is also the sense of accomplishment of helping someone at no cost. It keeps you young, it keeps you active, it keeps your brain turned on.”

Wheatland residents see cut in tax rate

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    Despite the harsh economic climate, residents of Wheatland County are going to get a bit of a break on their property taxes.
    The County set its mill rate and the residential tax rate has gone down from 3.795 to 3.6817. This means a homeowner with a $400,000 home will save just over $45 on their 2018 taxes. Wheatland County CAO Al Parkin says it took some work.
    “We worked pretty hard as staff and council to keep the mill rate as low as we can, while still providing the service we need to provide in the county,” said Parkin. “We are in a fairly good financial position, there has been some really good stewardship over the last many years by council and staff to keep on a very solid financial footing.”
    He says last year the county essentially froze the mill rate, and they were able to hold the line this year with the slight decrease in residential.
    This comes in light of falling assessments, especially with the province freezing linear tax rates and Assessment Year Modifiers. These are taxes collected on infrastructure such as pipelines and power lines that run through the county.
    “As an example, I think we lost $1.2 million in 2017, compared to 2016.  Essentially we lost about 15 to 20 per cent of our assessment on our linear, so it is a pretty substantial hit,” he said.
    Like all municipalities, they were seeing more expense in light of the carbon tax, in diesel fuel alone.
    “It is really substantial when you look at it …so it gets to be quite a bit from that one item. Of course, the pricing we get from contractors is reflective of the carbon tax,” adds Parkin.
    On the nonresidential rates, these saw a small increase, but he says they are still the lowest in the region for the nonresidential tax rate.
    “We try not to hit the nonresidential too hard. They don’t have a vote, so sometimes there is a tendency by municipalities to hit the ones that can’t vote a little harder, but we try to keep it in balance,” he said.
    Looking forward, he says the county seeing growth in residential assessments with new properties, and is seeing some commercial projects coming together.
    “It really challenged us and this year we are seeing things turnaround just a little bit and we are hoping  this is a sign of better things to come.”

Beiseker RCMP on scene of serious collision

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The Beiseker RCMP with Emergency Medical Services and STARS have responded to a serious two-vehicle collision on Highway 9 at Range Road 271.

At 10:11 a.m. today the collision was reported.  Beiseker RCMP have deployed the Collision Analyst to the scene to conduct an investigation.

The RCMP can confirm that a young child is being transported via air ambulance to an area hospital. 

CTV News is reporting the crash claimed three lives. At this time, information about the nature of the injuries on scene or the persons involved is not being released by the RCMP.  An update will be provided when available.

Traffic is being diverted on Highway 9 between Kathryn and Irricana.  Motorists are requested to avoid the area and seek alternate routes.  The area is likely to be diverted for several hours.

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