The owners of a new remanufacturing plant and two sawmills in the Alberni Valley are asking city council to reconsider a proposal that would raise the light industry tax rate in 2021.
Port Alberni city council held a committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 16 to go over the proposed 2021-2025 financial plan.
Dennis Hickson, representing the San Group, appeared virtually before council to request that the city keep the 2021 light industry tax rate at or near the 2020 rate. He also requested that council revive a revitalization tax exemption bylaw for industry, which reduces the municipal portion of property taxes by reducing the assessment value instead of the tax rate.
In 2020, the light industry tax rate was around 2.14 percent, with the major industry tax rate at about 5.3 percent. Manager of Finance Andrew McGifford explained on Tuesday that, historically, the two industries have had similar rates in Port Alberni.
“In 2020, there was a change in the assessed value within light industry, so that’s the reason that it did drop down,” said McGifford.
In the proposed 2021 budget, the city is looking at blocking both industry classes together, bringing the light industry tax rate “up to parity” with the major industry tax rate.
Hickson said that within 35 other municipalities in the province, the average light industry tax rate is only about 2.13 percent.
“We feel there would be a clear disincentive for light industry players to invest in Port Alberni,” said Hickson. “It would send a signal that Port Alberni is not industry friendly.”
During the committee meeting, Mayor Sharie Minions expressed her support for the San Group, whose reman plant is located within city boundaries.
“We very much want to make sure that we are a community that recognizes when investment is made and looks to incentivize the right type of investment in our community,” she said. “We feel very strongly that the type of forest industry that the San Group is creating in our community is the type of industry that we want to see incentivized.”
She also added that she is a “big supporter” of revitalization tax exemption bylaws. According to Hickson, the city had a similar bylaw that was adopted back in 2006, but it lapsed sometime after 2010.
Minions said that council will continue to have more conversations about San Group’s requests throughout the budget process.
A public input meeting on the proposed budget is scheduled for Monday, March 1 at 7 p.m. Residents can register for the webinar on the city’s website at www.portalberni.ca.