City council approves two per cent increase to mill rate

Although it has not been finalized yet, the City of Prince Rupert is incorporating a two per cent increase in municipal taxes.

Although it has not been finalized yet, the City of Prince Rupert is incorporating a two per cent increase in municipal taxes for home and business owners into its 2015 budget deliberations.

If approved by city council in May, the average homeowner in Prince Rupert will pay $38 more in municipal taxes this year.

This would cover the $220,000 budget shortfall being projected, after the city’s revenues, operating costs and Community Enhancement Grant requests are taken into consideration.

Originally, city staff was recommending council approve a mill rate increase of 1.9 per cent for residential and business owners, but was altered following the release of the B.C. Assessment Authority’s final property value assessments for 2015. The results show a downward change of $4 million in Prince Rupert’s assessments.

With taxes being one of the city’s few revenue sources, the suggestion to once again increase taxpayers’ bills in 2015 didn’t come as a surprise when it appeared in the agenda of the April 7 meeting.

For Coun. Blair Mirau, this is why the city should consider new ways of bringing in revenue to help balance its budget each year that transcend the decision on whether to raise taxes or cut services.

“There are some really simple ideas that I would like to see us entertain,” Mirau said, adding this could include corporate naming right deals on city facilities or selling vacant residential lots under its possession.

Council supported the idea, directing staff to investigate alternative ways for the city to bring in additional funds by the end of the year, and report on the findings at the end of May.

“This town has been burdened with higher taxes every year constantly. If we can find anywhere of alleviating some of those taxes on the residential and business community, I’m all for it,” said Coun. Barry Cunningham.

“It’s the nickels and dimes that add up to dollars. We’ve got to look under every nook and cranny to get more money for this town.”

Coun. Gurvinder Randhawa liked the idea so much that he said council should hold off on incorporating a two per cent mill rate increase in budget plans until the report was complete, but didn’t find any support from fellow councillors. Aside from Randhawa, all councillors were in favour of moving forward with the budget process as presented.

Furthermore, council unanimously approved moving forward with plans to hand out $102,500 in Community Enhancement Grants this year, which is $10,000 more than the city provided in 2014.