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REPORTING · 11th March 2011
Walter McFarlane
Council got together on Wednesday, March 2nd for a special meeting to discuss the apportioning of taxes in Kitimat. Municipal Manager Trafford Hall explained they needed to determine how much each class of taxes will pay.

He explained, historically, the community put a majority of the burden of taxes on the industry so they could provide a high degree of municipal services to the people of the community despite the remoteness of the region and the weather. A new comer to the community would lower the taxes in its class. On the flipside, if a member of a taxation class left town, it would be up for the remaining members of this class to make up the loss.

When they raised taxes last year, they determined all classes took the brunt of the loss rather than just the remaining heavy industry. Councillor Mario Feldhoff pointed out he is in conflict in the changing of apportionment towards industry. However he was interested in changing the apportionment between residential and commercial.

He pointed out the Home Owner Grant was supposed to be going up to $200. He admitted to not having done the math on this.

“I believe the commercial businesses are hurting and I believe we can extend them some benefit at a small cost to the home owner,” said Feldhoff.

Councillor Randy Halyk was not interested in shifting the taxes from the commercial sector to the major industry. “I’m not sure that I’m really in favour of charging the home owner for a reduced rate in the commercial sector. I think maybe it would be more advisable to charge the major industry for a reduction in the commercial sector as that seems to be where the issues come from for that sector, not with the homeowners,” said Halyk.

After an explanation, Councillor Feldhoff made a motion to give a break to the commercial sector by increasing the taxes to the residential. He 2.57% increase does not take into effect the home owner grant. He figured a portion of this grant would be clawed back by increased school costs.

“I’m going to speak against this because I think we’ve set what we want for the home owner and the residential. I think we should keep it that way and I kind of resent that Councillor Feldhoff being at the table when he leaves every time we talk about industry and Rio Tinto and now he’s arguing…” said Monaghan.

Feldhoff challenged the chair interrupting her because he couldn’t defend himself. Monaghan started to say why she said this: “But you are talking about industry…” but Feldhoff cut her off again raising his voice.

“I am not talking about industry. I’m talking about the home owner and the commercial sector, this is not about insdutry,” said Feldhoff.

Hall agreed with Feldhoff.

Halyk spoke against the motion. “First off, all the bafflegab with the numbers there. I’m trying to convince us that with less taxes, we can pay more things, I just don’t get that. The opportunity to apportion taxes is why we are here and any discussion which focuses apportionment whether it be commercial, industrial or home owner is all in one package. I am concerned about Councillor Feldhoff being involved in that because although I do understand that he really wants to be, but it affects industrial taxation and there is only one player in town so we are running into a scenario here,” said Halyk

Feldhoff accused him of speaking untruths. Halyk said Eurocan is gone and they have to go back to the old status quo and might have to raise taxes for the only remaining industrial tax base. He could not understand how they could get more for less.

Feldhoff said this discussion was clear, the motion was to shift from commercial to industrial. He wanted to look at only those two issues and if they wish to shift to industry, he will leave the room.

Monaghan pointed out if one person owned a house and a business, they would not see a difference in their taxes because while they would see a decrease in their business taxes, they would see an increase in their home taxes.

Halyk expressed he was under the understanding their business taxes were already among the lowest in BC and there was no point to lowering it further if it was already not drawing businesses into the community. Feldhoff pointed out there were a lot of home owners and only a few businesses in Kitimat.

The question was called and it was defeated. Only Councillors Feldhoff and Scott were in favour. The discussion went into major industry and Feldhoff declared conflict.

After dicussing the history Councillor Randy Halyk made a motion for there to be no change in the apportionment to industry. It was carried with Scott opposed.

Scott suggested they increase the apportionment to the Light Industry. This is why she voted against the motion. She said this is where Eurocan and Methanex were currently classified. With the major players in this area, they could tax it more.

Hall said he was uncertain were Eurocan will fall. He suggested the Council wait until next year’s roll to make the adjustment and wait for the assessment to go up. Halyk was wary of dropping anything on light industry because they were bridge between heavy and light industry.

Feldhoff made a motion to have council continue with the policy of applying the maximum amount allowed for the flat tax. It was called and carried. Hall thanked Council for giving administration direction and he introduced the five year plan.

This came up under reports on March 7th. Councillor Scott wished to table it because she could not understand the reasoning of the memo to the next Committee of the Whole Meeting.

Monaghan called the motion but Goffinet pointed out Hall had his hand in the air to bring something to Council’s attention. Hall reminded the Council the next meeting was in-camera, he would not be able to brief the Council at the next regular meeting because he will not be there which leaves the next Committee of the Whole Meeting. Then he is gone.

He said he gave the Council this memo as there was a time constraint on it. He suggested if they need to table it, they have a special meeting where they could discuss it. Feldhoff declared conflict.

Monaghan was certain the party they were meeting with postponed so they could have a COW meeting. Scott wished to have a special meeting if required. The Motion was carried.