City Council raises taxes again


#1

In what is now pretty much an annual certainty for residents…city council is again raising our taxes. They have approved a 2% tax increase.

thenorthernview.com/news/299199561.html


#2

What is it under $50 a year big deal lol.

Nothing new taxes will always go up.


#3

of course the would raise taxes instead of using a small portion of the money they got from lot 444, how unpredictable they are.


#4

I don’t like paying more taxes either. I am sure that Mayor Brain has weighed all options prior to increasing our tax bill. I will pay my 2% increase. Mayor Brain has inherited quite the financial burden from his predecessor.


#5

[quote=“hitest”]

I don’t like paying more taxes either. I am sure that Mayor Brain has weighed all options prior to increasing our tax bill. I will pay my 2% increase. Mayor Brain has inherited quite the financial burden from his predecessor.[/quote]

If we’re going to play that game at least be fair. Lee Brains predecessor inherited quite the financial burden from his predecessor as well. I’ve questioned the supposed need for change many times already in local political discussion in the forums here - What change? No matter who gets elected what really changes? Sure, Lee Brain is an open communicator with a long leash but what is the positive change in this? Read back on the discussion last year on how Mussallem was criticized for holding the line on the mill rate while Brain gets a free pass. In fact hitest, here is what you wrote last year:

"Re: Tax increases are the fault of City Hall - not BC Assess
Postby hitest » Sat Mar 08, 2014 8:29 am
Thanks for the reply Anna. My utilities bill is higher this year. I am hopeful that you and the other council members will indeed take another look at taxes this year and reassess the need for a hefty increase.

"ShelleyRobin wrote:
Hopefully they will read our dismay with their decision making and rethink their position on not to lower the mill rate accordingly. If that doesn’t happen, the only thing left in my arsenal is my vote. Shame on them!

“Welcome to HTMF, ShelleyRobin! :smile:
I am also dismayed by the ever increasing taxes. Our votes can bring about change. Let us get out and vote in November.”

Look at the positive change that your votes have brought about so far. All that while blaming the guy who wanted to hold the line for the taxpayers last year.

http://forum.hackingthemainframe.com/t/tax-increases-are-the-fault-of-city-hall-not-bc-assessment/16215/18


#6

It’s pretty clear that the current mayor and council did not inherit a financial mess from their predecessors. To the contrary they inherited a windfall in that millions of dollars have been paid by Exxon to the city owned and controlled Legacy Corporation and more is expected.

How that money is to be managed is sketchy at best. A ‘resident scientist’ has been hired. There have been reports that planning staff will be hired as well. Whether those opportunities will be posted or awarded through some other process remains to be seen.

There will also be costs associated with regulatory proceedings for the Exxon project, if and when that happens. Setting aside some money for those purposes is no doubt prudent.

It appears, though, that the Legacy Corporation does in fact have some money available for community initiatives that do not involve LNG. According to a Northern View article, Legacy money may be used to support revitalization of a city owned property on McKay street. The mayor is quoted as saying that besides the possibility of Port funding:

“The city is also looking at an alternative funding source,” he explained, noting there is money in Prince Rupert Legacy being set aside for city initiatives like this.” < thenorthernview.com/news/298927501.html >.

The article also says that “the city doesn’t currently have the capacity to maintain the site”. So the city that cannot afford to maintain the property may use city funds held by its Legacy Corporation to help a community group revitalize the site. Interesting.

The article further notes that the city “plans to sell the property to a community group for one dollar”. When and how was that decision made? Not at a public council meeting it seems. Perhaps further information will be made available in due course, in the fullness of time.

Meanwhile councillor Mirau suggested during discussions of the tax increase that the city consider selling vacant lots to generate revenue. That sounds like a much better idea than giving land away then using some of the city’s Legacy money to help fix it up.

So what can we make of all this? The Legacy corporation has quite a lot of money, mostly thanks to the previous mayor and council. Some of that money has been set aside for “city initiatives”, but the criteria and priorities and the process by which that came about are less than clear, particularly when compared to the city’s annual budget process.

Of course municipal budget processes are required by law to be clear and transparent. How municipal corporations conduct business is a different story.


#7

and on that note the Legacy Corporation was created to bypass certain laws pertaining to selling of land, hence the $1 the city got for the land from the legacy corporation, because of this the money from the legacy corporation can be spent anyway the city wants, ie helping with the budget


#8

Thanks for the reply, BTravenn. As the city council is raising our taxes it will be interesting to see what the windfall of money is ear marked for.


#9

I want to support and be excited about our new mayor but Im finding it very difficult. Part of his platform, as described on North Coast Review, is the following:

“Expanding the current tax base to ease the burden on residents and businesses and improve participation and communication with everyday residents.”

northcoastreview.blogspot.ca/201 … s.html?m=1

First of all, increasing taxes by 2% doesn’t equate to easing the tax burden on residents. Secondly, increased dialogue with the public means that you’re opening yourself up to criticism, especially when it involves a sensitive subject such as further tax increases. I don’t find it appropriate to have comments such as these made by our mayor:

“I believe I just explained why ours is higher, and the unique situation we are in.”

Rudeness

" I see that people don’t quite understand the situation here"

We understand Lee. Do you understand how tired we are of tax increases?

“Unfortunately the cost of rent has nothing to do with the City. Taxes were also high in 2009 and rent was cheap then, so our tax increases haven’t been affecting the rent prices. This is the speculation market at play right now - out of the City’s control. Housing is regulated at a Provincial level.”

The cost of rent will be reflected in rental costs because property owners need to profit, pay for building maintenance, etc. . The tax increase will end up being transferred to tenants.

"If you read my comment above, you would have a better understanding of how and why we can’t collect the income we need."
More rudeness. At this rate he’ll be threatening to kick Shaun Thomas’ ass by Sunday.

“It’s not that we choose to raise taxes on small business and residents, it’s that we are forced to…”

So the tax increase was not a choice? Since when did the provincial government have a deciding vote at Council meetings? If they’re forced, hell, why even vote?

“This is something the Province has forced on to us - which in turn puts the burden on you.”

The province did not force a tax increase. Don’t play provincial politics and shift accountability to a different government that didn’t impose a 2% tax hike.

“This is how all municipalities work - and every single municipality across BC has a tax increase this year.”

Who cares what every other municipality does. The burden on residents and small business here is immense. Brain wants to engage the public? Listen up then - the residents of this community are sick and tired of tax hikes. You and your Council control that and you just hit us all with another one after your predecessor, who has been essentially run out of town, held the line last year to cut the public some slack. There’s a potential $18 million from
imperial/Exxon this year and that better result in some kind of break in the years to come or else I’m afraid you’ll be in the next horse out of town.


#10

Well, I guess we can now see what the result of all the recent leadership changes were… during the period 2013 -14 the Town replaced its entire senior administrative team: City Manager, Public Works Manager, Treasurer and Corporate Administrator. Then in the fall of 2014 we got a new Mayor and two new Council Members. If there was ever an opportunity for change this was it! So what happened? We still get a 2 % tax increase!

Pick one or more of the following:

  1. The people who were replaced were actually doing a pretty good job.
  2. The people who replaced them are actually clones (hard to believe that Lee is a miniature Jack) .
  3. The costs of operating the City have been pretty much minimized and there is no apparent appetite to change the level of services supplied.
  4. The City faces the same cost pressures that each member and business of the community faces.
  5. Other (really, I am interested in what you think)

I believe you can in some circumstances (I am not completely sure of this), use the proceeds of capital assets to fund operations. However, even if you can do it, is it the right thing to do? For example, you need to consider: how are you going to fund your operations when you run out of property to sell?; and, when a property is sold, you had better be really sure it will not ever be needed by the City as it is quite expensive to get it back.

If Council wants to significantly reduce taxes, then they need to have the courage to start looking at some of its sacred cows: library, pool, arena, Lester Centre, and gym. These institutions are all heavily subsidized by property owners.


#11

Nope…


#12

I’m not sure if I could agree with Pantagruel more:

“If Council wants to significantly reduce taxes, then they need to have the courage to start looking at some of its sacred cows: library, pool, arena, Lester Centre, and gym. These institutions are all heavily subsidized by property owners.”

I don’t think Council can afford to subsidize ‘social wants’ any more. The library, pool, arena, Lester Centre and gym are nothing more than playgrounds for the elite: they should be made to immediately transition to a profit making business model or shuttered.

Grants to a long list of charitable and environmental activist organizations (BCSPA, Wild Life Shelter) must be cancelled immediately. These organizations could serve the better good and spin a profit too: petting zoos, a zoo, an aviary, (an all weather indoor nature walk with real animals in the former civic center gym)…I have no imagination but the possibilities are endless.

As for unnecessary services that the taxpayer is underwriting: parks, sidewalks (take a walk by the hospital and see how unnecessary sidewalks are), transit (hasn’t anyone heard of the Detroit citizen who walked almost 35 miles to work each day?), bridges (toll profit makers if ever their were some).

Sure, some might complain they need the bridges to get downtown: but honestly if they can’t afford a toll why did they choose to live on the other side of the bridge?

As for road up keep and repair: other than one or two essential roads – a user pay road tax should be implemented. Water usage should be metered for all residents and charged on incremental rate.

I could go on and on but there are brilliant minds that I’m sure can develop Pantagruel’s idea and soar (a zip line through the aviary?).

Darn it: with some creative thought and a will this City can become a profitable enterprise. Do we really need all the luxuries the City subsidizes?

City Council should be on Mr. Brain’s case to make these changes immediately (next week too early Mr Brain?). By the way: now that his job is full time shouldn’t he be talking on more responsibilities - like skippering the airport ferry as well?


#13

Could be worse.

Mayor Sued After Blowing Budget On Giant Robot Statue.

http://i.imgur.com/V1mre6p.jpg


#14

[quote=“chien22”]
City Council should be on Mr. Brain’s case to make these changes immediately (next week too early Mr Brain?). By the way: now that his job is full time shouldn’t he be talking on more responsibilities - like skippering the airport ferry as well?[/quote]

Heh-heh. :smile:


#15

dang it that is where our legacy corporation was going to spend the money on, now they have to buy a giant pac man and put it on city hall’s lawn


#16

If city property is sold the money cannot be used to fund operations. It must be put into a reserve fund for “acquiring land, improvements and other assets of a capital nature” (section 188(2)(e) of the Community Charter).

The Legacy Corporation was set up to get around that. The city transferred Lot 444 to the corporation, which can sell the land and spend profits without any restrictions under the Community Charter.

There is nothing, however, to stop a city-owned corporation from paying money received from Exxon (to date or in future), or from any other source, to the city as dividends. The funds would be included in general revenue (same as Citywest dividends) and could then be spent on budgeted capital projects or operations.

Leaving those funds in the corporation avoids a lot of the headaches and inconveniences associated with municipal governance, like public council meetings, restrictions on closed meetings, the need for an annual financial plan, procurement policies, hiring policies and so on. The mayor and council, as shareholder on behalf of the city, can direct city staff as directors to spend the money without having to bother with public scrutiny or municipal statutory requirements.

So there appear to be discussions about the corporation funding projects such as fixing up the McKay Street property, but that does not happen at a public council meeting. It’s surprising how quickly this mayor and council have fallen into a fundamentally undemocratic way of managing a substantial amount of inherently public funds. That may not have been their intent or by design, and I am not saying that they are bad or evil, but that is how the situation appears to have evolved.

The same point was made at a council meeting that using Legacy money to offset budget shortfalls would not be wise. Once the money runs out there would have to be a major increase in tax rates < northcoastreview.blogspot.ca/201 … -fund.html >.

However, that is not a reason for keeping Legacy Corporation finances hidden from the public, off the table during budget discussions, or keeping money in the corporation’s bank account rather than the city’s.

The council could put money from the corporation into a reserve fund for a specified purpose (see section 188(1) of the Community Charter), such as for anticipated infrastructure needs. Considering that there is a $200-250 million infrastructure deficit there is no shortage of potential projects, at least some of which should lever federal or provincial matching grants.

Probably highest priority should be setting money aside for replacement of the police station, because it is only a matter of time before the city will be contractually obliged to pay for that. Based on previous projections the cost will probably increase taxes by a lot more than 2%, which is really only an inflationary adjustment and not as big a deal as some make it out to be.


#17