Prince Rupert tax hike would fall at council’s feet

If city council thinks they can wash their hands of a tax increase with "it's not us, it's B.C. Assessment", they are in for a big surprise.

If city council thinks they can wash their hands of a tax increase with the “it’s not us, it’s B.C. Assessment” way of thinking and get away with it, they are in for a big surprise.

Yes, most people have seen assessments increase and assessments are directly tied to the amount of tax being paid. But anyone who has followed municipal government in the least knows it is those in City Hall who have the final say on how much residents pay when the taxman comes around.

It’s known as the mill rate and it essentially is the amount of taxes paid per dollar (or unit thereof) of assessed value. If your house is worth more than someone else’s house or worth more than it was the year before then you are going to pay more.

But the thing about the mill rate is this — unlike the assessed value of your house, the mill rate is set by the municipal government. Those around council chambers can move the mill rate up or down as they see fit to make tax bills higher or lower. It’s entirely up to them.

So while Mayor Mussallem may say the change is because assessments increased, that is disingenuous at best. If people are getting higher tax bills in 2014 than they did in 2013 ­— which looks to be the case at the city is planning on collecting $1.4 million more — the fault lands solely at the feet of council. While tax bills may not be higher because of anything the city did, they would be higher because of what the city didn’t do, and that is change the mill rate to keep taxes comparable from one year to the next.

Fortunately for the taxpayers of Prince Rupert, who have seen tax hike after tax hike in recent years, what was discussed at council was the kick-off to budget season and that means there is still time to change council’s mind about what they’re doing with the mill rate.

So while the Mayor may wish for people concerned about higher taxes to take it up with BC Assessment, you’ll want to give council your two cents before they take a heck of a lot more from you this tax season.