October 23, 2013 - 10:40 AM
REQUEST WOULD COST HOMEOWNERS $120 PER YEAR
KAMLOOPS – The four big players in Kamloops heavy industry came before council on Tuesday once again asking for a tax break to help make them more competitive.
In a letter to council in April, while the mayor and councillors were on the cusp of approving the biggest tax hike residents had seen in more than a decade, Arclin, Domtar, Lafarge and Tolko representatives said the tax rate imposed on heavy industry was 'prohibitive' and would need to be lowered to remain competitive.
Domtar General Manager Carol Lapointe reiterated the same points Tuesday as he spoke to council on behalf of the group.
“It's a strong disadvantage in Kamloops for all of us,” Lapointe said. “We want meaningful steps by the city to rebalance industrial taxes, to remain competitive, over the next few years.”
Lapointe says the average municipal industrial tax rate in the province is $40 per $1,000 assessed value. In Kamloops that rate is $79. He would like to see the tax rate in Kamloops lowered to meet the average by 2015.
That steep timeline concerned several councillors but Lapointe said they are willing to work through negotiations to get the rate to an acceptable point.
Earlier this year council broached the idea of expanding city boundaries to include more heavy industry, specifically the New Gold New Afton mine along the western border of the city. City services are already used by the mine and council was optimistic the increase in heavy industry players in the tax bracket would help soften the blow to each of the companies without costing homeowners a lot more at tax time.
Chief Administrative Officer David Trawin noted adding New Gold into the blend would lower the rate by about $20. That offset would help make the results the other four companies are looking for more achievable.
The councillors on hand Tuesday, Mayor Peter Milobar and councillors Pat Wallace and Marg Spina were absent, were happy to see the industry players before council at a more reasonable time in the budget planning calendar, but were nervous about shifting the $3.5 million the heavy industry has been paying to homeowners, as was done with the $228,000 break offered to the industry earlier this year. That resulted in a tax increase of about $7 per household. The current request would see an increase of $120 on residential tax bills.
Domtar recently shut down one of their production lines, which resulted in the loss of more than a hundred jobs, and there was a 'fairly dramatic ripple' effect through the other companies that deal with Domtar, according to Tyler Harris of Tolko Industries.
“We need Domtar to be competitive as well,” Harris told council. “I don't believe we feel the public needs to bear the brunt of the taxes. We need to be creative and work together, and keep a solid citizen in town competitively.”
Heavy industry taxation will be one of the issues brought forward at the upcoming budget meetings, which take place on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at Interior Savings Centre and Nov. 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at McArthur Island Sports Centre Lounge.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013