Divided Revelstoke council approves 2016 budget

Revelstoke council approved its 2016-20 financial plan on Monday, despite Chamber concerns and absence of two councillors.

Revelstoke council approved its budget on Monday, despite protestations from the Chamber of Commerce that it needed to shift the tax burden away from businesses.

Council held a 90-minute special budget meeting on Monday that started with a plea from the Chamber of Commerce to reduce the tax burden on business, and ended with a split council approving the financial plan as it was presented to the public at the end of January.

Council chambers was filled with business people eager to find out how they would vote.

The plan includes $21.7 million in spending, a two per cent tax increase on residential properties, and a one per cent tax increase on business properties.

Councillors Aaron Orlando, Gary Sulz and Linda Nixon voted in favour of the financial plan as presented, while coun. Connie Brothers and Mayor Mark McKee voted against it. Couns. Scott Duke and Trevor English were both absent from the meeting.

The financial plan still requires final adoption by council.

Chamber presents concerns

The meeting began with a presentation by Judy Goodman, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. It has been an ongoing concern from the business community that their taxes are too high and they pay an unfair share of the city’s taxes.

The Chamber made five recommendations about the budget process to council. Goodman’s presentation focused on the taxation issue.

She advocated for council to shift the tax burden away from businesses and onto residences, saying it wasn’t fair for businesses, which represent about 20 per cent of assessed values, to be paying 50 per cent of the taxes.

She called for council to reduce the ratio of business taxes to residential taxes to 3.5:1 for 2016, and said the ratio should be reduced to 2:1 by 2020.

“We need to create fairness in the property tax system and its essential to retaining and attracting business to our community,” she said.

She said the high taxes prevent businesses from expanding, and people from purchasing existing businesses.

“Our community can’t sustain this imbalance,” she said. “When businesses are paying more in tax, they’re not going to be building new buildings.”

The chamber’s proposed the tax on residential properties go up by $29 per $100,000 in value, while the tax on businesses would go down by $66 per $100,000 in value. Industry would see even larger tax reductions. The burden would continue to shift towards residential properties until the 2:1 tax ratio is reached.

“Unfortunately, that’s where we need to move because you’re not going to create fairness and get rid of the disparity without making that move,” he said.

Graham Inglis, the city’s director of finance, responded by showing that the ratio between business and residential taxes was largely a function of assessments, which have gone up significantly more for residences than businesses.

He said moving to a 3.5:1 ratio would require an eight per cent tax increase on residences, and a three per cent reduction on businesses, if spending levels are maintained.

How taxes are divvied up is up to council. “That’s the problem you have to struggle with, and I don’t envy you,” Inglis said.

Council debates

Coun. Brothers argued in favour of lowering taxes on businesses, saying it would help property values.

“Right now the burden is on the businesses, as I can see it,” she said. “We have to determine as a council how we rectify that.”

Coun. Sulz questioned shifting taxes onto residents. He noted that businesses can write-off property taxes as a business expense, whereas homeowners have to pay them on their after-tax income, which makes them a bigger burden.

“If residents have a limited pot of dollars to pay out in the community, will they be spending less dollars in the local businesses to support them?” he wondered.

Coun. Aaron Orlando said there was a need to pass a budget soon so city staff could get started on capital projects. He said council should aim to reduce the ratio to the provincial average (about 2.6:1) but shouldn’t fall into the trap of chasing it.

“I think it will take time for us to shift slowly and gradually,” he said.

Mayor McKee raised the issue of spending. “Are we comfortable on the amount of money we’re spending?” he said. “I don’t hear anyone talking about possible cuts.”

He asked for proposals on spending cuts. “I’m looking for solutions instead of questions and problems, and quite frankly I don’t see a lot of solutions. If we’re not 100 per cent happy I don’t want us to be rushing through and approving a budget.”

McKee then asked for someone to put forward a motion. Nixon moved that the budget be given third reading as it stood, without any changes. She said council would have to sit at the table together and tackle the budget line-by-line for next year.

Nixon, Orlando and Sulz voted in favour of the budget, while McKee and Brothers voted against it.

“I’m comfortable we’ve done our due diligence,” said Sulz.

“I still think we can be doing more work on it,” said McKee.

Chamber critical of budget vote

The Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce said it was disappointed with the city’s budget vote in a news release issued on Wednesday.

Adopting a fair contribution system, reduced spending and attraction of new construction would contribute to a more productive economy where businesses can thrive and increase employment and service, bringing value to the community at large,” stated chamber president Randy Driediger.

The chamber noted the city ranks as one of the highest spending municipalities in the province, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.

The chamber criticized council for not adjusting the tax rates on each class, and approving the budget without all councillors present.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Four staff members at the Okanagan Men’s Centre have tested positive for COVID-19 since Oct. 23, 2020. (Adult and Teen Challenge OMC photo)
Four positive COVID-19 cases at Okanagan Men’s Centre

Those affected are staff and have been in isolation since Oct. 23

Vince Schnabl looks at the view this October from the Gorge, west of Revelstoke. (Photo by Jon Wichett)
There’s 3 times more snow near Revelstoke than usual

According to 54 years of data from Parks Canada for Glacier National Park

Mail in ballot, provincial election 2020. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Mail-in-ballots coming in from Columbia River Revelstoke

In a progress report Elections BC said around 45 per cent of those issued have been returned

Mayor Gary Sulz (centre) cuts the ribbon for the new roundabout. Councillor Jackie Rhind (left) and Councillor Cody Younker (right) are on either side. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke’s newest roundabout opens on Victoria Rd.

The project took approximately six months to complete

Revelstoke Drill Hall as it looked July 19, 1970; current home of Trans-Canada Fitness. (Estelle Dickey/Revelstoke Museum and Archives photo 392)
Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Oct. 29

Local history straight from the newspaper archives

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Superintendent of the Kelowna RCMP, Kara Triance. (Capital News file)
Non-violent crime, small population contributes to Kelowna’s crime rate spike, says RCMP

Kelowna RCMP is assuring the public the city is a safe place

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Crime up 31 per cent in Vernon in 2019: Statistics Canada

Increase includes a 45 per cent rise in violent Criminal Code violations

A Tuesday Oct. 27, 2020 apartment fire in Penticton killed two and displaced dozens more. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Fatal Penticton apartment fire deemed accidental

The blaze gutted an apartment building on Tuesday morning, killing two people and displacing dozens

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports seven more COVID-19 cases

Eighty-nine cases remain active, none of whom are currently hospitalized

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

This Photoshopped version of the crosswalks near the entrance to the Salmon Arm Arts Centre on Hudson Avenue show what is proposed to help create safety for and show inclusivity to the LGBTQ2S+ community. (Salmon Arm Arts Centre image)
Tri-rainbow crosswalk and Progress flag requested to help make Salmon Arm safe

Council will consider budget requests to help make city inclusive to LBGTQ2S+ community

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Most Read