As the City of Port Alberni begins its public budget sessions for the 2012–2017 five-year financial plan, it is hard not to speculate how bleak the picture will be should the city’s largest industrial taxpayer, Catalyst Paper, be unable to pay its bill.
Catalyst last week filed for creditor protection, in order to restructure its loan payments. While it is unknown what that will mean to this municipality, the mayor doesn’t seem too concerned—to the consternation of his constituents.
Foremost on people’s minds is the 23 per cent increase homeowners were hit with the year Catalyst withheld most of its tax payment in protest over high industrial rates.
Homeowners cannot absorb this kind of shock again.
It is time for the city to make some tough decisions, and share the burden we may be facing. The first place to start is at city hall itself. Services may have to be cut, and taxpayers are going to have to learn to live with them.
Although businesses have enjoyed frozen tax rates in an effort to attract investment to the region, they also must be expected to shoulder some of the load. A one- or two-per-cent increase would still keep business tax rates low enough to be attractive, yet would generate some immediate revenue until council’s dream of economic diversification is realized.
With Catalyst’s announcement, the playing field has changed. Heavy industry can no longer carry the city. Right now, the taxpayer needs restraint.
The time for tough decisions has arrived.
— Alberni Valley News
and Cowichan News Leader