As the City of Prince Rupert looks to CityWest and the Digby Island ferry to cover its projected budget shortfall, representatives are hesitant to comment — in detail — on the suggestions.
A report included in the March 24 city council agenda implied the city would find the funds to cover a projected $1.55 million shortfall by increasing residential taxes by 10.2 per cent, but instead Coun. Anna Ashley made a motion to increase municipal revenues by about $1.2 million and use the accumulated surplus to prevent a tax increase. Ashley suggested the city could find the funds by increasing the Digby Island ferry fare by $15 a round trip and request CityWest provide additional funds for its dividend to the city.
At this time it is only a suggestion, as council agreed to table a decision until after a meeting with the Prince Rupert Airport Authority and a discussion with CityWest.
But Donovan Dias, CityWest’s sales and marketing director, said the amount of the dividend CityWest can provide isn’t solely up to the company.
“We hope to be able to increase our distribution, however our ability to actually make the payment is subject to some of the bank loan covenants that we have,” he said, adding the amount is also based on the company’s 2014 results.
Coun. Anna Ashley said if CityWest didn’t provide a larger dividend this year the city should look at a cost/benefit analysis of the company, with Dias declining to comment on the suggestion.
“At the end of the day we can’t really comment on [the city looking] at a cost benefit analysis of CityWest.”
While Prince Rupert Airport Authority chair Maureen Macarenko and Prince Rupert Airport manager Richard Reed were unavailable for comment early last week, airport authority director Judy Fraser said an increase to Digby Island ferry fares could affect the amount of people using Prince Rupert’s airport.
“It isn’t our decision as to whether to raise the fares or not because the city is responsible for operating the service to the airport. But in my view any increases in ferry charges would be detrimental to the airport operation,” said Fraser, who declined to make any further comments.