Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Provincial assessment process remains significant irritant for City Council members

Council members had a number of questions on Monday, seeking
information as to how provincial legislation is impacting on their ability
to spread out the burden of tax collection in the community

Monday's final look at the 2017 Budget process didn't provide for much in the way of new information as to  the city's financial plan for the year ahead.

The City's Financial Officer Corinne Bomben for most part confined her review towards a few final themes on taxation levels during a short presentation.

Focusing her comments towards a tweaking of the numbers on mill rate taxation, noting that the industrial levels had been reduced slightly owing to elements related to the province's assessment and taxation cap process.

That made for one more opportunity for City Council members to raise their concerns over how decisions being made in Victoria, are leaving Council members to have to rely more and more on residential and business taxation to fund their budget plans for the year.

 Concerns over capped  taxation values and assessment
issues generated by major industrial sources
continues to dominate City council reviews of the Budget 

Both Councillor Joy Thorkelson and Barry Cunningham addressed those key issues, reviewing some of the concerns that they have in the way the province is approaching the issue of taxation on port and industrial related properties.

With the pair highlighting how those decisions are creating added challenges in the city's ability to raise revenues and address local concerns.

Councillor Thorkelson called attention to changes to the rates from last year to this and reviewed how that leaves the city to need more from residential and business rate payers.

"So what I understand, then there will be likely no higher contributions from the major industrial to our tax base over last years ... So if we need to raise 160,000 dollars more, only fifteen thousand is coming, if I understand you correctly, from major industrial and the rest has to be made up between, really between, residences and businesses"

Those were observations that were confirmed by the CFO who outlined a bit of background on those themes for Council members.

For his part, Councillor Cunningham made mention of a number of aspects of the provincial process that are of concern for him.

First asking for clarification on how the provincial rules have been applied and providing some observations on how how that process is creating additional burdens on the remaining categories that city uses to collect taxation from.

"So, not only has the province capped heavy industry, now they're nit picking and changing the way that B.C. assessment does it, so the value drops even more and we get less taxes from heavy industry is what you're saying"

The budget consultation process, offered one final opportunity for public comment, however no members of the public in attendance approached the microphone to participate in the final engagement period.

Council will now move forward towards adopting their Budget over the next month, putting in place their financial plan and settling on whatever increase to taxation, currently suggested at 1.5 percent, that they will require to address their budget deficit.

A full overview of the 2017 Budget process can be examined here.

You can examine the discussion related to the province's assessment methods form the City's Video archive, it runs from the start of the meeting on the night and continues for the first nine minutes of the session.

The city's concerns related to provincial assessment levels and caps on industrial taxation have become an annual refrain from council members, but this year the political stars seem to be aligning for Prince Rupert Council.

The annual budget process and the focus on the impact of the provincial policies on the city's ability to raise revenue come as we head into the heart of the campaigning for the upcoming provincial election.

This offers Council members a unique opportunity to invite the declared candidates for the North Coast seat in the Legislature to make their views known to the city (and for electors) as to  how they would offer help to the cause.

In the past, Councillor Cunningham has made frequent mention of the need for Council to host presentations to the explore issues of note whether from civic departments or elsewhere.

This topic would seem to offer up the perfect opportunity to invite both the incumbent NDP MLA Jennifer Rice and her challenger Liberal Herb Pond to attend an upcoming public session of Council.

Ready to answer the questions from council members when it comes to civic concerns for the election period, and perhaps of even more importance, to go on the record for future reference by council members for the next discussion on financial issues with provincial officials.

A review of our archive of current election themes shows that  issues related to City concerns haven't to this point made for much of a contribution to the campaign discussion.

By raising such issues as the taxation caps, assessment concerns and other provincial irritants would help to move the city's message into that campaign narrative.

For more items related to Monday's Council session see our Council Timeline Archive here.

Further notes on City Council issues can be found on our Council Discussion page.

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