Chamber’s Presentation to Dr. Stanley Hamilton

FORT ST. JOHN & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Tax Committee Meeting
Re: Presentation to Dr. Stanley Hamilton
Presenter: Todd Tripp

Thank you Dr. Hamilton and to the City of Fort St. John for the opportunity to present our issues on behalf of the Fort St. John and District Chamber of Commerce.

Unfortunately our presentation will be brief as we have not completed our polling of our members and are still gathering some of the needed detail that we feel might be important with the analysis. In addition, we only have just received the reference report that was completed for the City of Vancouver, as we feel this document may give us insight into the overall process and what information is needed from our business and residential communities.

To be frank and honest, we have not received much in the way of feedback from our members, but with that said, we feel that they may not understand the process or don’t believe their voice will be heard or counted. We also believe there to be confusion as to taxes in general and the rules and regulations that govern the application.

To that end, we will provide you tonight with what we have but would ask for an extension until February 2oth to provide more detail.

Concerns Raised:

  • Keep things simple – average tax payer might not understand the information put out to the public. For example, pamphlet distributed at Chamber Luncheon and the tax calculator on the city’s website
  • Would like information in the report to include the history of how the current formulas were derived – the history of taxation in FSJ and area.
  • Investigate current taxation boundaries within and around the City of Fort St. John – CC membership have raised concern of an unfair advantage to businesses just outside the City boundary – yet still able to access City offered services without cost or expense – request that various options be reviewed as to the best practice to adopt – user pay, boundary realignment and/or taxation agreement with the PRRD are some suggested options.
  • Keep an affordable tax ratio for business so as to attract business development and to have current business remain
  • Businesses currently feel that the current taxation ratio is unfair and they do not receive adequate value for their tax dollars – in town businesses feel they are paying a disproportionate share of tax compared to their regional counterparts.
  • Keep an affordable tax ratio for residents so to encourage people to live and develop in town
  • Maintain a balance, understanding that this does not mean an equal 50/50 split but a justifiable and quantifiable ratio
  • Consider a fair share from regional districts – what is the history and what is current agreement – does the current agreement add sufficient value to support the services.
  • If businesses are under or over the current percentage – we are concerned with implementing a huge increase after the increases from last year.

Recommendations:

  • If there are to be increases implement them over time to allow business to spread out the increase.
  • Reviewing who constitutes the usage of RCMP, Fire and City infrastructure and maintenance

The Chamber did send a questionnaire to the membership with the City’s brochure attached and link information to the City web page. We asked our membership the following:

The Fort St. John Chamber of Commerce has been asked to do a presentation on your behalf to Dr. Stanley Hamilton (Consultant for the City of Fort St. John conducting a property tax ratio review). To ensure that we represent you, we are asking you to provide us with your concerns, comments and ideas. We ask that you send these comments to info@fsjchamber.com. For more information regarding the Property Tax Ratio Review please refer to the brochure that is attached.

The information presented in this paper is a summary of the concerns we received. I have also included a copy of an email letter sent by a member directly to Mayor Lantz.

Thank you again for the opportunity to present the views and opinions of business in Fort St. John and area.

“In Business for Business”
Suite 202, 9325 – 100 Street, Fort St. John, BC. V1J 4N4
Tel: (250) 785-6037 Fax: (250) 785-6050
Email: info@fsjchamber.com
Website: www.fsjchamber.com

—– Original Message —–
From: Brad Brain
To: blantz@fortstjohn.ca
Cc: wanda@licar.ca
Sent: Wednesday, February 04, 2009 10:02 AM
Subject: tax review
Mayor Lantz.
I attended the tax review meetings last night. I have concerns regarding where I see this process going.
If I understand things correctly Dr. Hamilton will be focusing on the tax ratios, which is fine as far as it goes. It just doesn’t go far enough. Fundamental to this is the correct level of taxation. For instance, let’s say the city decides to spend another $100 million. The tax ratios can be completely fair, but that doesn’t mean its right. To try to squeeze another $100 million out of the taxpayers would be ludicrous.
The bottom line is that tax ratios can be as fair as possible, but that is not adequate if the level of taxation is off the mark. There appears to be no avenue to address this through Dr. Hamilton’s study, so I’m raising the issue with you here. Fair tax ratios are one thing, and it’s an important thing, but let’s not lose sight of finding the appropriate level of taxation – the one at which the taxpayer gets good value for his tax dollar, not the one that makes us bleed.
It appears that Dr. Hamilton is going to be comparing Fort St John to other communities. That’s also fine, but only if it is used to learn from other communities, not to justify questionable spending decisions. We aren’t Vancouver. We aren’t Granisle. We aren’t Kitimat. We aren’t Prince George. We aren’t even Dawson Creek or Grande Prairie. Assessed values, industrial tax base, population, climate, services provided for taxes paid, the types of businesses that keep people employed, etc. all differ amongst these communities. The best thing to use to benchmark Fort St John is Fort St John itself. Where we were in the past. Where we are now. Where we are going in the future. That’s far more important to the Fort St John taxpayer than the mill rate for a gas station in Prince Rupert.
Another area of concern is the theory that higher assessed valued correspond with a higher ability to pay. That’s clearly a misconception. The OSB plant is your biggest taxpayer. The assessed value of their property will be significant. That doesn’t mean that they have buckets of cash to turn over to the city. A tax policy that saw increasing levels of taxation on higher assessments would only deter high end construction and renovation. Why improve your property if it means your tax rate goes up?
To sum up, obviously fair tax rates are important, but only one piece of the puzzle. In the absence of the correct level of taxation, the utility of fair tax rates is diminished.
Feel free to contact me to discuss further.
Kind regards, Brad Brain
Brad Brain, CFP, R.F.P., CLU, CH.F.C, FCSI
Brad Brain Financial Planning Inc.
101 ‐ 9705 100th Ave
Fort St John, BC
V1J 1Y2
Phone (250) 785‐1655
Fax (250) 785‐1650