Terrace’s city council has turned down two requests from the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce to freeze tax rates at 2011 levels and strike a task force or committee to look at how property taxes are calculated in Terrace.
Instead, tax rates will continue to fluctuate to accommodate rising and falling property values, generating stable and predictable payments for taxpayers plus marginal increases if needed for the city’s budget. How taxes are calculated will continue to remain a decision for council.
Both decisions came after a 5 – 1 vote by council at last night’s meeting March 26, with councillor Brian Downie as the only one opposed.
“Setting tax rates is one of the most critical decisions we make in a year,” said Downie, pointing out that both the business and residential sectors in Terrace share the majority of what’s paid.
Downie suggested putting off any decision until council could look at options for different ways to go about distributing the load.
But other councillors didn’t agree.
“I’m comfortable with proceeding,” said councillor Bruce Bidgood.
Councillors Lynne Christiansen, Marylin Davies and James Cordeiro agreed.
In a recommendation to council, the city’s finance director Ron Bowles noted that “it is the responsibility of council to establish tax rates that are in the public interest, not of specific stakeholder groups.”
On that note, Downie said he didn’t see the value in putting together a task force to examine rates because he doesn’t see residential or business “coming to a meeting of the minds” about who should pay more and who less.
“It doesn’t require a task force, it does require communications,” said Downie.
He and others agreed that community outreach should be a priority in the future and several shared ideas about how to ramp up public engagement.
“We can improve our communication about when we’re meeting and what we’re meeting (about),” said mayor Dave Pernarowski, adding this could increase the number of attendees to city meetings who have an interest in potential decisions.
Bidgood pointed out that the residential sector doesn’t have a designated group to lobby in its interests when it comes to tax policy like the business sector has with the chamber, and that council should ensure it reaches out to residents to create a balance in opinion.
Should city council have approved the chamber’s request to freeze tax rates, taxes paid by the business sector would have decreased while residential would have increased.
Bidgood emphasized at last night’s meeting that just because a specific classification like residential or business might remain stable in its payments to the city, there are fluctuations within each that depend on assessments.
For example, if the assessed value of a residential home has gone up or down more than the average of others in that category, that would result in a shift in payment.