Tuesday September 02, 2014

Proposal sets stage for scrap over tax 'windfall'

Cherry picking — that’s what TNRD director John Sternig calls a potential tax grab if the City of Kamloops were to gobble up Ajax mine.

Under its current proposed configuration, the mine’s 2,500-hectare expanse is shared between an unincorporated area in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and the City of Kamloops.

B.C.’s history shows a pattern of municipalities expanding their boundaries to include major industrial properties.

A nearby example is Highland Valley Copper, included two decades ago into the District Municipality of Logan Lake, which is more than 10 kilometres away.

That inclusion costs the municipality almost nothing, because it provides no services to the mine itself. But in return it rakes in about $1.8 million a year — equal to one-third of its total revenues.

That number fluctuates based on the assessed value of the mine’s assets.

Mark Freberg, community affairs director for Highland Valley Copper, said the greatest benefit to the mine from its tax payable to the municipality is quality of life in Logan Lake.

“A more attractive community helps us attract workers.”

But Sternig, an outspoken director on the TNRD, said any boundary expansion windfall for the City of Kamloops shouldn’t come at the expense of rural taxpayers.

“Ajax straddles the border… . We shouldn’t lose. The provincial government should ensure we’re fully compensated for what we lose and our taxpayers are not abused.”

Pat Wallace, a longtime director on the TNRD board and a Kamloops City councillor, said she needs many questions answered about mine impacts before she thinks about a tax windfall.

But she added, if it goes ahead, the mine could also pay royalties to either or both of the regional district and City.

“That to me would be an option… but I need a lot more information as to the pros and cons on its impacts to the City.”

Those impacts, beyond environmental, could include impacts on City roads from haul trucks as well as other infrastructure that could result in expenditures.

Sternig agreed the tax windfall for the City would be much greater than for the TNRD, but he doesn’t want rural taxpayers to lose out.

“They have the tools (in tax law) to create a windfall, whether that’s fair or not.”


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