Saturday April 19, 2014

City needs tax stability

What do you do when one small but vocal group shows it’s being treated unfairly, but it means costing other groups more?

That’s the dilemma City council finds itself in as the four heavy industries in Kamloops lobby today to have their tax rate reduced.

Tolko, Arclin, Domtar and Lafarge have put forward a unified pitch to have their share of the tax burden decreased. If they pay less, however, it means commercial or residential will end up paying more. The chances of reducing the entire tax bill are slim even as council heads into early budget consultations later this month.

The four are giving a presentation that includes a comparison of 2013 heavy industry tax rates from several B.C. municipalities.

It boils down to the provincial average being $40 per $1,000 assessed value; Kamloops is at $79 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The list shows Nanaimo is at $13, Kelowna at $11, Port Alberni at $50 and Prince George at $45. The list doesn’t include some other places with pricey tax rates for heavy industry such as Quesnel at $74, Port Moody at $65 and Salmon Arm at $76. But there are others that are much lower, too.

As a show of faith, council has already made a tax shift for the foursome.

After the companies complained in spring, council cut the heavy-industry total to $6.9 million from $7.4 million. The difference was shared among the residential taxpayers, which added $7.50 per average assessed ($348,000) household.

The group of four is arguing it’s difficult to compete against industries in other B.C. communities that charge less for heavy industry taxes.

They estimate that combined, the four employ 690 people directly and contribute to 1,725 indirect jobs in the city and region.

There’s never a good time to put more taxes onto residents or businesses, and council faces a tough decision. But this one seems inevitable, as heavy industry makes a good case in that it pays double the provincial average.

Seven years ago, council gave Weyerhaeuser a tax break after being asked to do so. It capped heavy industry for a few years. When the cap came off, taxes crept up.

Perhaps it’s time for the City to look at a better way of taxing heavy industry so that other taxpayers don’t get hit with waves of tax increases apart from regular budget items.

No one wants to pay more taxes, but if that has to happen, the City should at least try to build in some long-term certainty for all those paying the bills.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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