If you find you’re having trouble figuring out what’s what while submitting your taxes to the government this season, don’t fret. You’re not the only one.
Members of both Prince Rupert city council and District of Port Edward council met last week to re-evaluate the Ridley Island tax-sharing agreement, which has 83 per cent of all taxes collected going to Prince Rupert from the island, and 17 per cent going to Port Edward.
Prince Rupert Coun. Blair Mirau brought forth the agreement in late February, which dates back to 1980 when the City of Prince Rupert underwent a boundary extension to include Ridley Island.
In a letters patent issued by the province, it was determined that both municipalities share the first $25,000 in annual taxation, with the remaining balance distributed 80 per cent to Prince Rupert and 20 per cent to Port Edward.
In 1984, three per cent of Port Edward’s share was given to Prince Rupert as a contribution to maintain civic centre operations.
The agreement is currently being reviewed every five years, but Prince Rupert council feels the agreement is out-of-date due to the area’s current economic climate, and the taxes going toward Port Edward from the 17 per cent allocated are too much to be contributed elsewhere ($703,200 in 2015).
“It seems to be a very one-sided arrangement that we are transferring quite a lot of revenue over. In terms of the shared services back, that doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case, so I think that needs to be part of the discussion as well – that it’s time now for us to look at the fact that when this agreement was negotiated, we had a mill that was supporting this community, we had Ridley Island that was just about to be developed and now we don’t have a mill … and we don’t have these extra developments at the moment, yet one opportunity comes at Port Ed’s doorstep (Pacific NorthWest LNG’s proposed Lelu Island terminal) and that is not a reciprocal arrangement back in terms of us receiving some sort of benefit from those developments,” said Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain at the council meeting, referencing the landfill use (fees went up last year to account for the lost gas tax funding grants that were used to expand the site due to a ‘gold rush’ of developers renovating homes and taking up space at the landfill), fire rescue, airport ferry and other Prince Rupert amenities Port Ed residents may use.
In 2014, Prince Rupert council asked Port Edward Mayor Dave MacDonald to re-evaluate the agreement, but MacDonald responded saying that since Port Ed residents are so close to the Ridley developments, any negative impacts such as coal dust, increased rail traffic and train whistling affecting the community without any taxation was deemed unfair.
As well, the three per cent of taxes given over to Prince Rupert for civic centre upkeep represented Port Edward residents paying their fair share for recreational facilities, as well as user fees.
“These amounts are not insignificant,” wrote Mayor MacDonald in his response to former Prince Rupert Mayor Jack Mussallem’s invitation for discussion.
Last Tuesday, March 8, Mayor MacDonald said he was open to discussing the agreement in the near future.
“I’m meeting with the [Mayor Brain] tomorrow to talk about the issue … We feel it’s as fair an agreement as it could get in the day (1980) and we don’t see any reason to change it. We’re going to go listen to what they may have to say of why it should be changed and we have had meetings before on this issue,” MacDonald said, adding that should a positive decision result from the federal government on the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal on Lelu Island, the district would look into the potential for sharing the benefits agreement.
In Rupert’s chief financial officer Corinne Bomben’s report to council it was found that over the five-year period from 2010-2014, Port Edward’s taxation collection from Ridley Island represented on average 52 per cent of all taxes collected for the district.
“I’m all for being a good neighbour but when we’re talking about this arrangement being over 50 per cent of their tax revenue, I definitely thinks it warrants further discussion … I’d rather request that we invite the Port Ed council to meet with us … The agreement seems to be outdated. It’s not serving the City of Prince Rupert’s interests,” said Mirau.
“This will be an ongoing dialogue and will require some time for both communities to consider alternatives to the existing arrangement,” said Brain last Thursday after the reported meeting.