Five-year tax change proposed

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Property owners are likely to see changes to their tax rates after Fort St. John City Council approved a motion to consider a phased tax ratio adjustment over a five-year period.

On Monday, Council, during its committee of the whole meeting, voted in favour of presenting the five-year tax adjustment plan at a public meeting.

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Council was presented with three potential options – three-, four- or five-years – for phasing in a decrease in the tax ratios for businesses and light industrial property owners, alongside an increase in the tax burden being placed on residential property owners.

After significant debate, Council ultimately chose to proceed with a five-year plan, to minimize the potential burden on residential property owners.

On the one hand, the plan would result in a drop in the tax rate for both light industrial properties and businesses within Fort St. John. Light industrial property owners would see a drop of approximately 2.48 per cent from 28.19 in 2010 to 25.71 per cent in 2011 and business property owners would see a less than one per cent drop from 14.37 in 2010 to 14.09 per cent in 2011.

On the other hand, residential property owners would face a tax increase of 0.02 per cent from 5.05 last year to 5.07 this year.

The report outlined how the increase would affect specific residential properties. For example, a residential property owner on 103 Ave. whose property assessment increased from $239,000 to $247,000 would pay $46 more in taxes in 2011 than in 2010. The average tax increase for residential property owners across Fort St. John would be approximately $63 in 2011.

Despite Council’s decision to consider a decrease to both business and light industry property owners, Councillor Lori Ackerman said the City should consider where property owners reside. Ackerman said the City should try not to give multinational corporations, with owners who live outside Fort St. John, tax breaks at the expense of the City’s residential property owners. Rather, Ackerman said she would prefer to give any potential tax breaks to corporations with local owners.

Furthermore, Councillor Dan Davies said the City would most likely review the tax rate changes in one year since there is at least one factor that could sway the current classification and tax rate system. Davies said B.C. Assessment is being asked to review many light industrial properties across the province since some might be incorrectly classified.

Some light industry properties might actually belong under the heavy industry classification or the business classification. If any of the light industrial properties in the Fort St. John have their classifications altered, the change could impact how much the property owner would pay and thus, how much the City would collect in taxes.

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The proposal will now go through a public consultation process, which will take place at a later date.

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