Facing a reduction in tax revenue, the City of Prince Rupert is considering another tax increase after taking an extra day of closing City Hall off the table.
If the tax rate were to stay the same as last year, there will be $179,064 less in tax revenue to the City compared to 2012. A large portion of that reduction comes from a new tax regime for port lands, with port taxes decreasing by $153,694 because of non-market change. However, the City will be getting $30,147 in new tax money due to the expansion at Ridley Terminals.
Residential taxes are down $10,829, while business and other has decreased by $78,121 because of issues such as the closure of J.S McMillan Fish Plant.
Last year the City could only pass the budget after increasing taxes by 1.5 per cent. To keep even with last year’s tax revenue, the City would be looking at a 1.7 per cent tax increase.
However, councillor Gina Garon said she doesn’t agree with a tax increase for residents in the community.
“People are fed up with taxation at this point in time. They don’t see that they’re getting a big bang for their buck,” she said.
Given the reduction, Mayor Jack Mussallem suggested a new way of making up the shortfall in the form of reducing community enhancement grants by 10 per cent, or $140,000.
“That’s money we give to groups with the expectation that we’ll have the money. Clearly we don’t have it,” Mussallem said.
Prince Rupert’s Wes Baker said he would like to see the Port put more money into the community, and the revenues coming into the community aren’t what he believes they should be.
“I don’t think we’d be in this quandary if the revenues we received from the Port and economic enterprises were at a fair rate,” Baker said.
Councillor Joy Thorkelson suggested the City should sit down with the Port and inquire if they would be willing to make a donation to offset the $153,000 shortfall in taxes, or cover the 10 per cent cut to community groups.
Council decided not to pursue closing City Hall an extra day following a presentation by city employee Michelle Montemurro.
“Goods and services in Prince Rupert already cost enough, and to propose a reduction in wages, my wages in particular, would not only affect me but many of my co-workers in this building. It would most certainly affect my personal budget which is already tight like many people,” she said to council.
However, council didn’t completely exempt city staff, and will be looking at the implications of a five per cent reduction to each City department.
“It always seems that we’re targeting one particular area, even with the suggestion of cutting time at City Hall,” said councillor Anna Ashley.
Thorkelson agreed, saying City Hall employees losing a day’s pay a week is a larger sacrifice for those individuals than a slight tax increase for all Rupertites.