They say the more things change the more they stay the same, and that is certainly a theme reflected by many on social media following news of another tax increase for the coming year.
Perhaps hopes were too high for this new council, which features a majority of new members and one who only sat for a few months in the last term. Some seemed to think, incorrectly it seems, that a change in leadership would result in a change in the way the city’s finances are run — that these new faces would magically find a way to reverse the trend of increasing taxes in a few months when councils-past have struggled with it for years on end.
Unfortunately things are not that simple. This council is inheriting the financial challenges of not just the past council, but essentially every council since the Watson Island Pulp Mill shuttered its doors. There is no quick fix that this council or any other municipal leaders could have put into place, unless they dipped into the Legacy funds which would only result in the need for a larger tax increase years down the road.
While many will direct their anger at city hall, the venomous words floating around town should be making their way down to Victoria and landing squarely on the desk of Christy Clark. After all, it is the provincial government’s legislation that is forcing small business owners to pay a higher tax rate than their major industry neighbours situated on land administered by the Prince Rupert Port Authority.
If the legislated tax cap on port-related industry weren’t in place, the $220,000 shortfall the city is facing would be non-existent. And there may even be money left to address some of the major infrastructure needs around town.
This time around it is tough to blame council for a two per cent increase. But if they don’t put the entirety of their efforts into alleviating the tax burden on the residents and small businesses of Prince Rupert by lobbying for legislative changes, blame for future tax increases will fall squarely on the shoulders of council.