City of Prince Rupert proposes the first modest tax cut in decades. (File Photo)

City proposes 2 per cent tax cut

First 2019 budget presentation reveals first tax reduction for Prince Rupert residents in decades

For the first time in decades, the City of Prince Rupert is offering a tax cut to its residents.

On Monday, Feb. 25, the city’s chief financial officer, Corinne Bomben gave her first 2019 budget presentation to council, announcing a 2 per cent decrease in the mill rate.

“Although it’s just a two per cent decrease, it’s been decades since this has even been considered,” Mayor Lee Brain said.

Recent budgets have had a 0 per cent increase, but with new industrial tax revenues and Watson Island returning to business, the city is turning the tides.

What this means for homeowners, for example, is that with a home value assessed at $200,000 they will pay $38 less in 2019. A slight improvement, but the 2019 budget also includes increased services — two RCMP members, and a new bylaw officer, for example.

“After three years of asking for a bylaw officer I like that,” councillor Barry Cunningham said.

The budget surplus proposed for 2019 also takes into consideration the provincial government’s new employer health tax benefit, which is costing the city $200,000.

A few other budget highlights include: a 10 per cent increase in the operational paving budget, paving the Lester Centre parking lot and the airport road, continuing the dam replacement project, expansions at the landfill, an airport ferry refit, buying a new garbage truck, and making the recreation complex more energy efficient by replacing the boilers.

City staff are also looking into implementing curbside pick up for recycling.

Mayor and council renumeration was also on the table at the Feb. 25 meeting. This year, the federal tax law removed the one-third tax exemption status for members of local government.

READ MORE: Tax change triggers tricky debate on politicians’ pay

The committee that investigated how best to implement pay for mayor and councillors presented their five recommendations after comparing nine similar communities with Prince Rupert. One of the recommendations was to keep the mayor’s status as full-time and to increase his pay from $60,000 to $75,000, and for council pay to increase from $13,431 to $18,750.

One of the committee members, Bob Thompson, said he wants council members to see the increase as important for democracy and local government.

“We have to think about the position and what the conditions of this position are, and what this means for our local democracy… so people are not excluded for financial circumstances,” he said.

In April and May, council will give a final consideration for these terms.

There will be two public budget consultation sessions on March 11 and March 25, which will also be broadcast on Channel 10, and

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Shannon Lough | Editor
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