Monday, June 27, 2016

Progress on PILT between City and Port a process years in the making

Port CEO and President Don Krusel
and Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain
at Thursday's Port Annual Public
Meeting last Thursday

A long running irritant on land values between the City of Prince Rupert and the Prince Rupert Port Authority appears to be on the way to resolution, with both sides heralding collaboration for the future as a key result of their recent discussions.

The Port of Prince Rupert and the City of Prince Rupert shared a press release on Friday making note of the latest in progress when it comes to one of the more contentious topics of recent years of the Payment In Lieu of Taxes process or PILT, the mechanism in place to determine how much in the way of financial return the Port provides to the City of Prince Rupert for land within the city borders.

Officials were all smiles and had a few words of shared achievement at Thursday's Annual Public Meeting of the Port of Prince Rupert, as Mayor Lee Brain and Port CEO and President Don Krusel offered up some thoughts on the nature of the agreement that delivers a total payment on PILT to 5.3 million dollars from 2013-15 and sets the stage for further collaboration on issues into the future.

As part of the information release of Friday, Mr. Krusel took note of the background to the long running discussions between the two sides.

"This represents a satisfactory conclusion of a long conversation about the value of vacant federal lands administered by the Port,” ... “We look forward to strengthening our relationship with the City as we both seek to improve the vitality of our community.”

Mayor Brain for his part observed on the tone of the recent discussions and the outcome that they provided.

“The Port and City are working to develop a more collaborative relationship, recognizing that we share the best interests of the community. Faced with differing opinions on land values, both the Port and City staff have acted respectfully and professionally throughout this process. This outcome will allow better certainty for City budgeting, and more opportunities for collaboration with the Port to prepare for growth,”

Mayor Brain followed up on the days events by adding on to the official media releases through his Facebook page, offering up another copy of the media release of the day and providing a short list of some of the highlights related to the shared approach on the issue between the Port and City.

Among the items hailed by Mayor Brain were:

A settlement resulting in total payments from 2013 to 2015 of $5.3 million to the City, acting on behalf of itself and as agent for other taxation authorities.

The agreement includes an commitment by the City and Port to invest in a future local infrastructure project of mutual interest.

The City and Port have devised a process emphasizing greater communication and less uncertainty to guide the calculation of PILT payments for 2016 and beyond.

The Port and City have agreed to jointly explore the challenges posed by the BC Port Property Tax Cap as identified by the City of Prince Rupert

In the last few years, the Port's Annual Public Meeting has become an opportunity to offer up some updates on the issue of the PILT process, or to deliver a recap on previously announced arrangements between the two sides of the discussion.

For the Port of Prince Rupert, the notes on PILT worked nicely towards their theme of last Thursday of valued partnerships with local communities and First Nations, a topic which was given a fair bit of exposure as part of the Annual review.

As well as the movement on the issue of PILT, the City is also finding additional financial benefits from its evolving relationship with the regions economic engine, with infrastructure plans currently under review for a joint project between both the City and the Port.

Another area where the community has benefited from a benevolent industrial giant has been through the Port's Community Investment Fund. That community engagement initiative has over the last few years been delivering a growing level of funding for a number of community projects, something that reduces the burden on the City of Prince Rupert when it comes to providing recreation or cultural benefits to the community.

Credit certainly should be accorded to those that delivered this latest level of progress on the PILT issue as outlined in Friday's information update, the results of that behind the scenes work of recent months making for the main thrust of the PILT file  as outlined by the notes from Thursday's Port meeting.

However, not to be forgotten in the flurry of media releases and background pieces should be some of those that were part of the process of the past.

Those previously elected officials and staff members that took on a thorny issue and kept it on the front burner through the last few years, a level of engagement that took place during some particularly challenging financial times for the City.

The issue of how to best address the PILT concerns was one of the main financial items of the time for the Council of then Mayor Jack Mussallem, that had council had raised the flag on the topic from 2011-2014 and had started to see progress on the relationship prior to the November 2014 election.

Though, as the results of November of 2014 would deliver, not even the improving relations of that time appeared to help the former Mayor much on election day.

Those ancient efforts of past councils, at times it seems are left to the history books without much of a mention, but they did make for some of the foundation for the success outlined on Thursday.

That past work on the issue served as a key contribution towards the forward momentum that has seemingly charted a course of better engagement and progress for both the City and the Port, an arrangement that hopefully finds successful outcomes for both sides and greater benefit to the residents of the region.

Some of the transit from the past to present can be reviewed below:

September 2015 -- Port PILT payment reduction and Airport Ferry costs take the spotlight in City Report tonight
March 2015 -- City of Prince Rupert looks to increase pressure on Province on taxation caps

October 2014 -- Council hears PILT settlement review from City Staff
October 2014 -- City of Prince Rupert and Prince Rupert Port Authority reach agreement on PILT
September 2014 -- Port's PILT Payments, Watson Island revenues decreases highlight Financial Report to Council
June 2014 -- City to take taxation and industrial development issues to UBCM in the fall
April 2014 -- A PILT primer from the Port
March 2014 -- Port CEO and President provides Ports view of taxation, PILT and community involvement
February 2014 -- Mayor hints to progress on PILT and other items with the Prince Rupert Port Authority

November 2013 -- Prince Rupert Port Authority makes partial payment of 2.1 million on outstanding property taxes
April 2013 -- Council looks to Port to provide financial assistance amid current fiscal troubles
April 2013 -- Councillor Thorkelson's Boots are made for talking!

For more background on Port related items see our Port archive page.

Further review of City Council decisions and discussions can be found at our Council archive.

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