Property tax rates remain frozen in Prince Rupert, increase by 10.8% in Smithers

Joshua Azizi
04/28/2021


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Two Northwest municipalities are taking different approaches to property taxes this year, but it's not an apples-to-apples comparison.

In Prince Rupert, city council is looking at a zero percent tax increase, along with an 850-thousand dollar surplus. It's the fourth year in a row the city's tax rate hasn't increased.

Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven said Prince Rupert hasn't needed to raise taxes because it gets adequate revenue from other sources, such as its ownership of CityWest and its land holdings on Watson Island.

He also said that tax rates in Prince Rupert are already quite high. 

"We're at such a high tier for taxes when it comes to a municipality of our size because we're in the dire depths of kind of infrastructure deficits and all these other things," he said. "But to keep it at the bare minimum and not increased it at this point, keep it at the high bar that it's at, because it's already quite significant -- we want to maintain that affordability for small businesses as well as residents."

Meanwhile, Smithers approved a 10.8 per cent property tax rate increase. The additional tax funds will be used to fund infrastructure projects, additional RCMP officers, and general operations.

When the pandemic started last year, the town only raised taxes by 0.5 per cent by using reserve money to cover new expenses instead.

Smithers mayor Gladys Atrill says she's sympathetic to people who might have concerns about the increase, but she says the town can't put it off any longer. 

"I appreciate that the timing for many is not good but there wasn't another way for us to get through this," she said. "If we wanted to get the work done, eventually you can't dip into your reserves or your savings all the time. Eventually you have to pay the piper."

From July 2019 to 2020, BC Assessment reported that property values have increased by 7 per cent in Prince Rupert, and by 15 per cent in Smithers, meaning that the average homeowner in these cities will likely see a higher property tax bill regardless of the rate.

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