In a special regular meeting, Prince Rupert city council approved of the 2019 budget, property tax, and remuneration for mayor and council in one fell swoop.
On Monday, April 15, the final steps to approve the bylaws may have happened all in one night, but there was heavy debate on two issues: how much the mayor and council should be paid and the two per cent tax cut.
Despite councillors Nick Adey and Gurvinder Randhawa stating that they weren’t in agreement with the amended remuneration bylaw it passed. The mayor will now receive $75,000 for full-time status, and councillors will receive 25 per cent of the mayor’s full-time status.
|Mayor Lee Brain to receive a $15,000 raise. (The Northern View photo)|
“We just came out from election a few months ago and none of us mentioned that we will increase our wages after we got elected,” Randhawa said. “This year, we’re lucky we have extra money to cover this $50-53,000 extra if we go with this bylaw but next year if we don’t get any extra money our taxpayers have to pay half per cent, or more than half per cent, to just cover our extra increase in wages.”
Previously, one-third of council’s salary was exempt from taxes. After that changed in 2019, mayor and council appointed a Blue Ribbon Standing Committee to study the issue and deliver a solution on compensation.
Prince Rupert has approximately 12,500 residents, which means that each resident is paying $6 for the mayor’s salary. In comparison, Kelowna has the highest paid mayor in the Okanagan with a $95,695 salary. Each Kelowna resident pays 0.75 cents for their mayor with a population of approximately 127,380 people.
The debate over the budget stemmed from councillor Blair Mirau who suggested a one per cent tax decrease, rather than a two per cent decrease, to shift more money toward downtown capital improvement.
“If we were to poll home and business owners and ask them would you rather save an average of $14 a year on your household taxes or have 30 per cent more paving done? If we asked that question I think we all know what the answer would be. I think everyone wants to see substantial improvement to our infrastructure relative to the amount of money that the average homeowner would be saving,” Mirau said.
He argued that now that the city actually has money, they should be putting it away to repave the roads and improve infrastructure to attract more business and industry.
The other councillors “totally disagreed” with this motion stating that for those on fixed incomes every dollar counts, and that with other taxes going up they are in favour of keeping the two per cent tax cut to “soften the burden.”
While city council gave first, second and third readings to the 2019 property tax bylaw, providing a two per cent decrease to the municipal tax rate, other taxes are going up.
The North West Regional Hospital District taxes went up approximately $130,000 over the last year. Chief financial officer, Corinne Bomben, said that the regional hospital district indicated this was due to the business plan for Mills Memorial Hospital and some carryover from some major projects in 2018.
“The North Coast Regional District’s requisition from the municipal taxpayers has gone up by approximately $43,000 over last year, the regional district has indicated that this is principally because of increased costs and reduced rental revenue and lower recycling sales,” Bomben said to council.
Shannon Lough | Editor
Send Shannon email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter