City of Powell River Council will contemplate increasing rates for the north harbour in 2021.
At the November 26 finance committee meeting, chief financial officer Adam Langenmaier said there had been rate increases at the north harbour in 2011 and 2015. He said with revenue and expenses flowing out of the north harbour, any surplus or profit is currently held within the north harbour reserve, with the intention to replace the north harbour in time.
“What’s happening is expenses are rising and revenue is stagnating and we’re seeing smaller amounts going into the reserve for future replacement,” said Langenmaier. “The goal is to increase the money going into reserve for future replacement.”
Langenmaier said the increase across the board is about five per cent for all of the various services.
He said an interesting statistic is the north harbour’s occupancy by owner address. City residents represent 68.25 per cent of the occupancy, qathet Regional District residents represent 23 per cent and all others represent 8.75 per cent occupancy.
“It’s interesting to look at,” said Langenmaier. “There are people from the United States and Quebec that keep their boats here that don’t live here. I wasn’t expecting that many to be out of town.”
He said the increase of five per cent will result in a rise in total moorage revenue by about $30,000. The expected annual impact to a boat owner with a 24-foot boat is $78. In 2011, the annual moorage for a 24-foot boat was $1,512, in 2015, it was $1,555, and in 2021, if the rates are increased, it would be $1,633.
“The changes here aren’t huge and hopefully they’ll be accepted by council and the moorage people,” said Langenmaier.
He said in the bylaw amendment proposal, the city would be maintaining a rate for seniors.
Langenmaier said the city took on a big chunk of debt to pay for the harbour. He said he recommends the city look more closely at its moorage rates and see that it is going to be covering the future cost of replacement, and how the rates compare across the region.
Mayor Dave Formosa said this is a substantial investment and it should be providing a return on investment to the city.
“We should be getting a return on investment from this marina that goes into general revenue, and if not, we are doing a major disservice to the taxpayers,” said Formosa. “We all know that city residents pay a decent tax and folks who don’t live in the city, in the regional district, have a lower tax rate. I almost think we should have different rates, for those within the city, who pay taxes towards repaying this debt, and those who aren’t should be paying a little bit higher rate so we get some sort of a return on investment.”
Councillor Cindy Elliott asked if the city could have a two- or three-tiered rate that favoured residents over non-residents. She said the thought is that those who don’t pay taxes in the city may be treated differently than those who do.
Elliott said she was in agreement with raising the rates. She, similar to the mayor, would like to see proceeds from the north harbour go into general revenue as well as the reserve fund.
Councillor Rob Southcott said a five per cent increase over five years was a “pretty minimal” increase. He didn’t think there would be a big objection to the proposed increase from boat owners. He said what would cause objection is a reduction in contributions to the reserve.
“My impression is users down there would probably support more of an increase to ensure the reserves continue to be generated in the interest of the next generation to the harbour down there,” said Southcott.
Elliott said she would be happy to move amendments to the rates if council is in favour of looking at that. She said she would be pleased to make a motion that Langenmaier take the matter and come with some recommendations for a two-tiered fee service for residents and non-residents.
Langenmaier said he likes where the discussion is going. He suggested that rates proposed in the proposed bylaw amendment take effect for 2021, and that direction be given to staff to look at the harbours as a whole; whether rates compare with other harbours, and how the rates compare to maintaining the harbours in the future, plus creating profitability on return on investment.
Chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said Langenmaier’s recommendation captured everything the finance committee had been discussing, so it would include the south and north harbour and it would speak to tiered rates.
Corporate officer Chris Jackson said what is being suggested is referral of the bylaw to the December 3 city council meeting for first three readings and that staff would be directed to work on a long-term analysis of the city’s harbour rates. The committee provided unanimous consent to proceed as Jackson had outlined.