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REPORTING · 21st October 2011
Walter McFarlane
A puzzling question came before Kitimat City Council at their regular meeting on Monday, October 3rd. Kitimat Valley Institute was applying for Permissive Tax Exemption. Councillor Mario Feldhoff removed himself from the room under conflict of interest because he was uncertain if Rio Tinto Alcan.

Councillor Randy Halyk moved the three readings. “There was a lot of questions on this because of the fact that I think Everybody in town believes it’s a school that was bought some time ago and owned by Rio Tinto Alcan and the Haisla in concert. I’m not sure that that’s the case now, administration has given us some information that that’s not the case now, it’s owned by a non profit organization. Although we don’t know the members, we know the directors of that organizations and if that’s the case, I do believe that the community would do well by having another school that offers industrial work shops and the ability to learn welding and engineering and any of those fine professions that are out there,” said Halyk.

Councillor Corinne Scott named the people who were on this society: Margaret Sanou as Chairperson, Ellis Ross, Brent Robinson, Colleen Nyce and Charles Porten.

Councillor Bob Corless wanted to know about the permissive exemption, because he is used to giving it to Churches. It was explained they could grant permissive exemption if it is a not for profit society. Similarly, the Legion and the Golf Course fit under the act. Currently, it is exempt from taxes by statute because the building is owned by the School District. The permissive exception would only apply if they bought the property.

Goffinet suggested a tabling motion, asking clarification on several points. Councillor Gerd Gottschling agreed tabling the motion until they have all the facts. Scott said there was no reason to table as they were only giving the motion three readings and they could give it final approval when they receive more information.

Goffinet suggested putting it off to a COW meeting and wrap it up by October 31st, listed as a stage in the Council Package. “I think it’s prudent that we ask the two parties for advice and then try it again and we have enough time to do so,” said Goffinet. He pointed out this represents a potential $315,000 in taxes.

Scott pointed out they have not received taxes from this facility because it is an educational facility who has not had to pay taxes in the past. Halyk agreed with the tabling motion citing a moratorium on selling schools. The tabling motion passed.

The topic came up at a special meeting of Kitimat City Council on Tuesday, October 11th. Kelly Williams, the manager of Kitimat Valley Institute wished to provide an overview of the changes the institute has gone through. Councillor Mario Feldhoff declared conflict of interest.

“In 2009, the Kitimat Valley Institute Corporation was a corporate entity owned by two Shareholders, the Haisla Nation and Rio Tinto Alcan. They purchased the company of the educational facility,” said Williams. “They re-envisioned from a different direction for the institute. The institute is a credited post secondary training facility, college as it were.”

She explained the shareholders decided to go forward as a not for profit society allowing the institute to provide community services while facilitating the educational component for education. In 2010, they upgraded. It is a new direction for them and they welcome it.

This however means they do not have the corporate support. They have to be sustainable as a society on their own. “The reason that we’ve come to the community and asked them for a tax exemption is to go forward, we are in the process of negotiating with our friends at the school district on possibly buying the building, that would be our dream. We have started a building fund and will go forward that way,” said Williams. “Part of what would really guide our decision and our progress in that direction is to have the same capabilities to have tax exemption that the college does and the other public providers of education in the community.”

Williams explained they do not make a lot of money for the work they do. She welcomed any questions from Council. Councillor Corinne Scott asked if they were operating as a private school. Williams stated they offer accredited courses registered under the pixia act for non public post secondary schools. They are a non profit organization. They have memorandum of understandings with UNBC, BCIT and other Post Secoundary schools to transfer credits.

Councillor Randy Halyk clarified they were governed by a society act meaning they could offer different types of courses and as a society, they are funded by courses. Williams explained they have to have strict guidelines from the Province which they have to follow.

Scott asked if they do apprenticeship program. Williams replied yes. They are working on a program to recruit career and training paths for students. Scott also asked if there was an apprenticeship program at the high school. The response was they had one but they lost them and the person has not been replaced.

Councillor Rob Goffinet wanted to know more about how the Tax Exemption request fell into the property purchase. Williams explained they currently lease the property from the school district and they are currently in negotiations to purchase the property. Goffinet also mentioned they can earn a surplus profit for survival or future plans. Williams said she could not imagine what the further profit would be used for.

Halyk pondered why Feldhoff declared conflict if the school is no longer owned by Alcan. Williams explained they have members from both of the original investors. However, the community might think the school might still be owned by the company.

Alanna Cameron and John Garossino were also present to present to Council. Halyk asked them about the transfer of the building. “I wouldn’t call it negotiating,” said Cameron. “We responded to an initial offer.”

“We have very specific requirements on any disposable properties put forth by the ministry of education and it is very complex and it’s going to take a number of months before we even get to a process where we could call it into discussions. We have to go through a public consultation, we have to meet with members of your staff, we have to go through the ministry and we have to have minister approval before we could process it,” said Garossino.

He added, the last time, it took a number of years.

Halyk asked if there was a moratorium on sale of school properties. Garossino replied two years ago, the minister of education had to approve all sales of school property unless the property was being sold to another educational provider in the K-12 sector.

Scott asked if KVI would continue to lease the building, the response was yes because they are under a lease agreement and they have not planned to terminate the lease. Scott also confirmed the building was post secondary.

Goffinet asked if the tax exemption would only come into effect if KVI bought the property. The answer was yes. He asked if they acted on this, would it make the work more difficult or compromise their responsibility to the government. Cameron replied she did not think it would have any effect.

Monaghan thanked them for coming. Councillor Bob Corless moved three readings. Halyk expressed it could take a number of years for something to happen and Council could take their time to learn more.

Corless said there was no reason to hold it up either. Scott said she did not see a problem, the property is tax exempt at the moment and it was tabled prior to the consultation. Halyk could not understand why they were considering something which will happen far into the future. Goffinet stated this motion could be the signal to one of the parties to proceed with purchase.

A quick clarification question prompted an answer from Walter McLellan, Community Clerk saying if Council did not like this, they could pass another bylaw to take it off the books. Halyk said he could no longer see a problem.

The motion was called and carried.

This motion came up for Final Adoption at the City Council Meeting on Monday, October 17th. Once more, Councillor Mario Feldhoff removed himself from the meeting, Goffinet moved the Adoption. It was carried with no discussion from Council.
Another puzzling question
Comment by Apocalypse Now on 21st October 2011
I watched the council meeting on Monday and something bothered me . When council was going through the list of expenditures there was a cheque for $1400.00 payable to T.Hall. Ms Scott asked the question of what the cheque was for and the reply was , it is a cheque made out to Trafford Hall for expenses he incurred to go to a court case for the district of Kitimat if I am correct. What bothered me was ,no one questioned what our ex municipal manager was going to a court case in Vernon for or how it pertained to kitimat. Coincidently Vernon ishis new place of employment. Hopefully some one on council can clarify this.
Comment by richard on 21st October 2011
make them different then any other company. milking cash cow company. wants to charge every one walking in the door,pay your dam taxes,your no different then any other company. this really smells. sure others are involed in the scam. do a audit of this k.v.i. see the hundreds of thousands of dollars raked in. sweet deal for all those involed. say No to tax break. careful, snakes are in the grass ,more then you can see.