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Taxpayers shoulder tax increase

Draft city budget calls for 38 per cent hike for most classes

City of Powell River officials have concluded deliberations for the 2013 budget.

The proposed budget will have a 3.8 per cent tax increase for residential and business property classes, with no tax increase for major industry and a six per cent lift for light industry.

Budget information will be presented during the April 18 council meeting. “That will give an opportunity for the community to hear the budget presentation from staff and to ask questions,” said Councillor Chris McNaughton, who chairs the budget committee.

Final adjustments were made to the budget during a meeting on March 21. Council had previously agreed to reduce the flat tax by 85 per cent of the 2010 rate, which will be $407 in 2013, compared to $432 in 2012.

Dave Douglas, director of financial services, walked councillors through a complicated calculation involving a successful property assessment appeal in 2012, which affects business class taxes.

The city received notice of a BC Assessment supplementary roll adjustment after putting out tax notices, Douglas said. The adjustment reduced taxation revenue by almost $85,000. Council approved by resolution replacing the loss from the 2012 general operating surplus. “Normally, if there is a decrease in a class, it’s distributed among all the businesses in that class,” Douglas said. “It creates an inflationary amount to all the businesses based on one business getting reassessed at a lower rate.”

The issue was about fairness, Douglas said. “Are you just going to re-tax that whole class for the amount we lost or are we going to start from what we actually received from that class?”

Councillors decided to start with what had been collected from the business class in 2012.

Councillors and staff also talked about comments made by Kevin Clarke, Catalyst Paper Corporation president and CEO, during meetings in Powell River at the end of February. Mayor Dave Formosa said he recalled Clarke saying that “they would be happy being treated just like business.”

Mac Fraser, the city’s chief administrative officer, reported he had a conversation with Brian Baarda, Catalyst vice-president, who indicated the company wouldn’t want to change the city’s tax revitalization bylaw, which sets the major industrial tax rate at $2.25 million to 2014, but would be open to discussing a contribution based on a tax increase to the business class.

Fraser asked the committee to direct him and Formosa to have a discussion with Catalyst about a cash contribution to municipal expenses equivalent to the 3.8 per cent increase, leaving the major industry tax rate as it was. The committee agreed and passed a motion to that effect.

One of the major expenditures in the 2013 budget is $700,000 for a new pumper truck, funded from the equipment replacement plan. Terry Peters, deputy fire chief, explained the rationale behind the purchase to the committee. The truck that needs to be replaced is the oldest truck in the fleet, he said, and is far past its life span. “Its time is just simply spent,” he said.

Staff have balanced the 2013 budget by initiating some adjustments, including reducing the parks, recreation and culture budget by $43,533. Some of the savings will come from closing the pool on Saturdays during the summer, closing it at 6 pm instead of 8:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays during the fall and closing it on Sundays in May and June.

The adjustments also include allocating $50,000 for the mayor’s task force on economic revitalization, instead of $100,000, with the additional funding of $19,200 requested by PRREDS (Powell River Regional Economic Development Society) included in that amount.

Councillors agreed to include the Powell River Public Library’s total budget request of $538,900 in the 2013 budget. The total, a combination of capital and operating, is $8,875 less than 2012, a reduction of 1.62 per cent. The library has been informed that its grant application to Western Economic Diversification Canada for new shelves was not successful.

Hopes for a town clock on a vacant lot on the southeast corner of Marine Avenue and Alberni Street have been dashed. Fraser has recommended that a Marine parking study should be completed before considering the project. He also noted that the proposal ties in with the official community plan review. He recommended that the project be considered for 2014.

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