CITY COUNCIL has yet to decide on whether to support a Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce plan which would lower business taxes but raise what residents pay.
The chamber plan would mean a shift from the city’s current policy of applying any tax changes equally across property classifications.
So far, Mayor Dave Pernarowski said he doesn’t favour a tax decrease unless it’s fair and even for all.
“I would consider a change that brought the 2.5 per cent tax increase down, but fairly across our tax classes,” he said. “We will only be able to accomplish this by reducing our infrastructure projects and cutting services and community grants.”
“The setting of tax rates is one of the most important policy decisions that council makes in a year because we’re a small tax revenue city with very limited industrial tax, any decision we make either has an effect on commercial or residential,” said councillor Brian Downie in advance of council’s next budget deliberation meeting March 26.. “It’s a serious decision and we have to give it the time required to make that decision.”
“I’m not saying we should agree with any or all of it,” he said.
He did council has an obligation to consider the chamber proposal.
Councillor Stacey Tyers said she will wait for discussions with council next week before making any decision.
Councillor Marylin Davies acknowledged that the budget, as it is now (including a 2.5 per cent tax increase from last year) is providing the same services as last year.
“The bottom line is, we are elected to do what we think is best for the community at large,” she said.
Councillor James Cordeiro or Lynne Christiansen don’t favour any amount of taxes shifting from business to residents.
“I don’t think we can put any more back on the residential,” said Christiansen. “The ideal would be hoping that sometime we have some industry to share some of that burden.”
“I would suggest that the burden to business is no different than the burden to residents,” said Cordeiro of the way taxes are calculated now.
“I don’t even want to raise residents’ tax bills by 2.5 per cent,” he said.
He also wouldn’t be in favour of striking a tax policy task force as requested by the chamber.
“I’m not in favour of having task forces decide the city’s budget,” he said. “Tax policy is a matter for finance and city council. I think you’re going to have a hard time getting residents and business together to decide who’s going to pay what.
“Our only hope of reducing tax to business and residents is to develop an industrial tax base,” said Cordeiro.
“I would suggest that if there is a business in town that is on the verge of failure and they are going to be taxed out of existence they can come to council,” he added.
Councillor Bruce Bidgood could not be reached by deadline last week.