For years, really since I got here, people have been telling me about the high tax rate the people in Prince Rupert pay compared to similar sized communities and [in some cases] larger centres around the province.
After being here and getting to know the town, it seems to me that part of the high tax rate has to do with maintaining service levels in the midst of a population drop that saw Prince Rupert go from about 18,000 people in the late 1990s to below 13,000 people in the last census. And it’s true, I may not have been here back in the day, but it doesn’t sound like a lot of services run by the City of Prince Rupert have dropped off the map. Yes there have been cutbacks, but the City still operates a performing arts centre, a golf course, and recreational opportunities in terms of the civic centre and the swimming pool seem to be about on par with when the mill was still open and fishing was king.
The result has been that the City of Prince Rupert has the highest payroll in northern BC for communities of its size and one that is $5.6 million higher than neighbouring Terrace.
And while the services have stayed the same, the tax base has gone down and the infrastructure has continued to age and degrade. Coupled with the fact that there is a need for a new RCMP detachment, there is a lot being put on the backs of the taxpayer.
Now it seems that council is beginning to look at some tough decisions in terms of operations that would help prevent or at least minimize the year-over-year tax increases that people in the community have seen. In the past several weeks we’ve heard council and mayor Mussallem, in particular it seems, speak about selling the golf course, turning over the Digby Island ferry to the port authority, reducing tax exemptions for different community groups and more.
These are not going to be popular decisions with a lot of people, especially those involved with the community groups and those who want a definitive and certain future for the golf course. But it’s the reality of being an elected official in a community that some would argue still has a substantial problem with unemployment – you are going to ruffle some feathers, but the interest of the vast majority should come before the desire of few.
Or as the old saying goes, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
There are going to be some tough conversations to be had in the coming year, and I’m sure the community will have more than enough to say about what is being planned. But you do have to tip your hat to council for at least bringing up potential solutions to a long-standing