Council still pondering tax hikes

As town council and management continue to hammer away at the 2004 budget, one of the final questions remains which sectors can afford to see tax increases and which ones can’t.
The committee of the whole met late Monday to receive a report from treasurer Peggy Dupuis presenting council with a choice between implementing a 15 percent tax increase for residential, multi-residential, farm, and pipeline properties, and a 7.5 percent hike to large industrial and commercial/small industrial, versus an 18 percent increase for residential, multi-residential, farm, and pipeline properties, and a nine percent hike for large industrial (with no increase to commercial/small industrial).
“I’m having a hard time accepting hitting commercial and light industrial. We want to encourage growth in light industrial,” said Mayor Dan Onichuk as council discussed the pros and cons of the two tax increase options.
“My thought is we’ve been hitting them. Is there any will to change that?” asked Coun. Tannis Drysdale.
Coun. Roy Avis suggested 15 and 7.5 percent increases, with no new levy on commercial, adding that perhaps some estimates in revenues from avenues such as “bag tags” have been conservative.
He also said there’s some dollars out there that could make up for not passing a tax hike onto commercial/small industrial.
“If there’s going to be expansion in the community, it’s going to be in light industrial,” reiterated Mayor Onichuk in an interview after the meeting. “And the downtown community is facing challenges as it is.
“My personal opinion, and I think council is on the same track, is small industrial is the future to growth in this town. And our commercial rates already are too high,” he added.
“As far as an overall tax increase to residents, I’ve got a lot of problems passing on an increase if we don’t have corresponding cuts in services and manpower.
“We really need to find as many efficiencies as we can,” the mayor stressed.
“I think council, as a whole, realizes we have to go there. But do we go there now? I don’t know. It will eventually be the toughest decision we’ll have to make,” he concluded.
Councillors agreed any decision on tax increases should wait at least until next Monday’s regular council meeting.
The committee of the whole will hold another special meeting Wednesday at noon downstairs at the Civic Centre, at which time budget discussions will continue.