Thursday, March 12, 2015

Council points to Province and Feds for joint ownership on some of the City's current woes

Monday's Budget Presentation at the Lester Centre provided for a fair amount of time for members of Prince Rupert Council to share their frustrations when it comes to Budget planning.

Particularly when it comes to a number of moves by senior levels of government that make the process a complicated one.

Monday night, Mayor Brain and Councillors Cunningham and Thorkelson, took advantage of the Budget Forum to point to regulations and decisions by the two other levels of government, offering up their observations on issues that they say puts Prince Rupert in a tough situation.

CFO Corinne Bomben at
Monday's Council Session
The topic of caps on industrial lands, primarily those related to port development in the community, was one of the major themes for the three members of Council, as they expanded on an overview from the City's Chief Financial Officer.

In her presentation earlier in the evening, Corinne Bomben provided a thumbnail sketch of the situation for the audience, examining the areas where the City is limited in its ability to secure more revenue from industrial options.

Highlighting how that impacts on local taxpayers, who through residential and commercial taxes pay more owing to the city's inability to gain more money from industrial taxation.

Following her short overview, the Council members took charge of the discussion on the theme, explaining how there is a need to reinforce with both Federal and Provincial officials as to the burden that they are creating for municipalities.

Mayor Lee Brain at the Lester
Centre Public Consultation
The Mayor expanded on those conditions that the province has put in place related to industrial caps and commented as to how the City can't access a full share of taxation revenue because of those limitations.

While in the past the issue of caps on port lands has resulted in some serious finger pointing by some on Council at the Prince Rupert Port Authority, on Monday the Mayor stressed how this was not a port issue, but rather one of provincial legislation.

Councillor Cunningham also spoke to the issue, observing how he had it wrong last year when he was constantly addressing his concerns towards the Port Corporation, stating that he now believes that the real issue is related to the provincial government's moves on the issue of industrial caps.

Councillor Barry Cunningham, offering
up some points related to the Budget
He made a point of reviewing the rates that industrial groups such as Maher Terminals are capped at, while observing how the commercial and residential rate payers have to carry the larger burden.

He also stressed his desire and determination to get the message across to the provincial and Federal governments and to have them address the issues.

Councillor Thorkelson however, was by far the most adamant on the evening when it came to the issue of the impact on the community from the provincial and federal regulations.

Leading off her thoughts by observing that if residents want their taxes to go down, that the City would not be doing it by reducing city services any further.

Highlighting that the increases of 1 or 2 per cent or so of recent years just cover off the costs of living that the city has to meet.

Councillor Joy Thorkelson spoke to
issues related to Port caps on Monday
evening at the Lester Centre
To work on the issue she suggesting that Council and the city's residents need to ask the MLA to address the issues of the port cap in the Legislature, while also recommending that residents also write letters of their own to both Provincial and Federal officials.

Urging local residents to tell the upper levels of government that it's unfair how municipal governments are being put in the position that they currently are in.

She also outlined how the City, through its work with the newly formed Northwest alliance should work together with other communities in the region. Looking to get the attention of the Provincial government and to gain better access to revenue streams, through revenue sharing agreements from such regional projects as mining and other industrial developments outside of municipal boundaries.

She wrapped her review of the ongoing concerns related to the taxation issues by recounting how over much of her time on Council over the years,  the taxation issue continues to dominate Councils  considerations.

Adding that she doesn't know where else the city can cut and that there is a need for the provincial and federal governments to understand the issues that municipalities face.

You can review the wide range of talking points on the taxation troubles from the City's Video Archive.

The key elements start with Ms. Bomben's financial review from the 1 minute mark to the twelve minute point, while the Mayor and Council engage the topic throughout the remainder of the Budget consultation through until the one hour and nine minute mark.

For more items related to City Council issues see our Council Discussion page here.

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