Wednesday, March 30, 2022

First community engagement opportunity for Budget process finds No Questions for staff, Council

The first opportunity for residents to comment on the City of Prince Rupert Civic Budget for 2022 came and went on Monday evening without anyone from the public speaking to the process.

The public comment opportunity coming as part of Monday's Committee of the Whole session prior to the Regular City Council Session.

The engagement opportunity began with a short presentation from the City's Chief Financial Officer.

As Corinne Bomben  provided a snapshot of her previous presentation of March 14th, noting of the potential tax increase of 3.63 percent to the mill rate, estimated for the average homeowner as an increase of 67 dollars.

Towards the increase she noted of the need to rehouse the Public Works Crew, additional Fire house staff, RCMP contract increases and the addition of the 24 hour washroom service downtown.

Ms Bomben provided for a bit more detail on the nature of civic expenses, noting that the top three services of RCMP, Fire and Roads make up over half the tax services cost to the community.

The CFO then addressed some of the outstanding questions from Council members from the last presentation of earlier this month. 

She provided some additional background towards how the City approaches Reserve accounts and how funding is allocated through them. Ms Bomben noted that City Staff will also be bringing forward a formal policy for council consideration this year.

"Although we do not have a reserve policy just yet, a scan of other municipalities indicates that ten percent of the previous years tax funds, or one percent of asset value can be used as a benchmark minimum for general capital reserves. 

If we were to use these benchmarks, the capital reserve balance would still be short, even after this years allocation. 

We plan on bringing forward a policy for Council's consideration this year.  In the meantime, this slide show indicates our reserves are not at a level that is considered at a minimum even after the recommended allocation.   -- CFO Corinne Bomben on Reserves and how the City allocates funding to them

Ms, Bomben also expanded on the Provincial Incentive Program and how the Port Property Tax Act impacts on the community, along with the burdens that it places on the city's considerations on budget making. 

She noted how the City continues to advocate for change to the program with the Provincial government.

"In 2004 the province  enacted their provincial incentive program called the Port Property Tax Act, it sets out a maximum mill rate charged to port terminals. Each year the assessed value of these terminals decrease, a decreasing assessment multiplied by the capped mill rate, means less tax collected year over year. 

What this means is budget deficits like the one experienced this year cannot be shared with the four  qualifying port terminals. The full cost of the deficit is passed on to all remaining  taxpayers. This happens every year, unless these facilities reinvest, at which point the decline begins again on the new tax received.

This also means Capital renewal programs for General City services such as roads, recreation, parks, Fire and RCMP are not contributed to by these port terminals.  

The restrictions the city has in sharing the burden of taxation is all due to the province's legislation  that prevents council from adjusting all city mill rates. We have been advocating for change yearly and continue to do so -- CFO Corinne Bomben outlining how the city views the impact of the Provincial Port Investment Tax

The CFO also outlined the process in place now for Home owners to apply for the provincial grant and tax deferral policy.

To wrap up her presentation Ms. Bomben outlined the range of options for community participation in the consultation process.

Ms. Bomben spoke to the range of other options that are available for the public to participate in the consultation process.

As for questions from the public, the first engagement session offered no participation, with no one coming forward to share observations, ask questions or make comments

The next presentation and final public comment opportunity comes up at the April 11th City Council Session.

You can review the CFO's overview from Monday from the City's Video Archive, Ms. Bomben's  presentation opens up the evenings session.

Those who may want to participate in the budget engagement can gain more background on the city's plans from the City of Prince Rupert website and Rupert Talks Portal

Residents can also take on the role of CFO for a bit, making use of the City's Budget simulator to put their own budget making skills to the test.

You can follow our review of budget themes here.

More notes on Monday's Council Session can be explored through our Council Timeline Feature.

Past items of interest from previous Council sessions and other civic engagement can be reviewed here.


  1. It's budget eve at City Hall, and every year comments are made about how the Port Property Tax Act is a grinch.

    But City Hall never mentions PILT (payments in lieu of taxes) or the BC Port Competitiveness Grant(payment in recompense for property tax caps on major terminals) and the impact they have made over the years to city finances.

    It is great that the city wants to advocate for a review of the Port Property Tax Act, but this should not be the main objective/excuse year in and year out.

  2. Increasing taxation will make all of our west coast ports less competitive.

    The provincial government contributed $25 million to port related expansion activities in Prince Rupert last year.

    The federal government has contributed $372 million to all BC ports between 2016-2020.

    City hall needs to build better relationships with higher levels of government and ask for more PILT and grants.