The city is losing more than $11,000 per year on property taxes on the NEPTUNE facility on Port Alberni’s waterfront and councillors want some answers.
The matter arose during discussion about a grant-in-lieu payment from the Ministry of Labour, Citizen’s Services and Open Government.
According to a letter to the city from the ministry, Port Alberni’s cut of the $59,261 grants in lieu doled out to municipalities is $238.
“That’s not enough for a waterfront property and they’re not using all of that property,” Coun. Jack McLeman said.
At issue is the property in Alberni owned by the University of Victoria since 2004, which is used for research conducted by Ocean Network Canada. The city designates the property as a business/other class.
The university owns the property, therefore a property assessment isn’t carried out to determine its value and subsequent tax rate. Instead, the University Act allows the institutions to pay municipalities a grant at a rate set by the minister.
The property was previously owned by Teleglobe and was assessed and taxed as a business. The last year under this arrangement (2004), its assessed value was $698,000 and tax payment to the city was $11,000, city finance manager Cathy Rothwell said.
According the information submitted to the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities earlier this year, the value of the land has increased to $836,000, and that taxes forgone amount to $13,600 per year.
Alberni isn’t the only municipality to get the property tax short shrift. The municipality of Saanich gets $135,000 as a grant-in-lieu of taxes for the property that UVic is located on.
UVic previously promised that they would do some work with the Alberni Valley Maritime Museum, “…But we don’t even hear from them now,” McLeman said.
A motion to increase the tax rate was moved by McLeman but was defeated.
Such a stringent motion might be premature and give the wrong impression, Coun. Hira Chopra said.
“We don’t want to give the message that this town isn’t open for business,” he said.
Instead, councillors passed a motion inviting university officials to discuss the matter with council.