Tax incentive bylaw deferred to 2023

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

An industrial tax incentive bylaw is needed to stop people and businesses from moving to larger centres, Northern Sunrise County agrees.
However, details of the bylaw need more study before council is comfortable passing such legislation.
The matter was debated at length during council’s meeting April 12 before councillors agreed to defer the matter to 2023 to give administration more time draft options for tax incentives and bring people and industry to the county.
“People are moving to larger centres,” said Councillor Art Laurin in opening debate.
“Ultimately, you only have so many taxpayers [to pay the bills].”
Early discussion centred around a tax incentive at the Northern Sunrise Gateway Business Park.
“Why just there?” asked Reeve Carolyn Kolebaba.
“People are still developing on the other side [west] of Peace River,” replied economic development officer Lynn Florence.
Over the years, council has invested heavily in developing services at Gateway; however, there is plenty of competition and choice over where businesses decide to locate.
“I don’t think this is an easy thing to solve,” said Laurin.
Councillor Corinna Williams noted the investment council has made in Gateway and suggested they need to sell the service levels provided at the park.
“Our service level is really high,” she noted.
Population levels are dropping and it’s a trend council would like to reverse. The latest census pegged Northern Sunrise’s population at 1,711 or a drop of 10.9 per cent from 2016’s 1,921.
“What I find scary is there are less people to pay the bills,” said Laurin.
“How do we bring in more people?” he asked. “We will inevitably have to cut service levels.”
The positive news is the energy industry is rebounding with the province and county seeing more prosperity.
“. . .the tide has turned,” noted Laurin.
Williams suggested a tax incentive was something that needed to be studied carefully. She was willing to wait another year to get it right.
“Maybe it’s something to look at for 2023 or 2024,” she suggested.
“This is something that can’t rushed,” she added.
“I agree, 2022 is too soon,” said Laurin.
“It gives us a year to work on it.”
Councillor Jason Javos was already clearly in favour of a tax incentive regarding Gateway.
“It it’s empty, it’s empty. If we have to give a tax incentive to fill it, I’m all for it.”
Kolebaba said taxes are not the only reason businesses are not locating at Gateway.
“It’s people, it’s staff,” she said adding the problem is getting people to come to the region.
“It’s an effort to attract more people here,” said Laurin referring to the tax incentive.
However, other municipalities face the same problems.
“We’re not alone in this,” said Laurin.

Northern Sunrise County tax incentives background

In 2021, council passed a Property Tax Incentive Bylaw that provided a rebate to county ratepayers. If their taxes were paid in full by June 30, they would receive a rebate on the municipal portion of their taxes as follows: five per cent on residential/farmland; three per cent on commercial; and two per cent rebate on industrial. Discussion at that time by council expressed an intent to only provide the rebate on residential/farmland in 2022. When the budget was presented to council in November 2021, administration included the proposed property tax payment incentive for the 2022 tax year with a five per cent discount for residential and farm accounts only. At the Dec. 14, 2021 regular council meeting, council passed the 2022 provisional operations budget which included this discount.

The incentives are included in the 2022 operations budget with 82 per cent forecasted uptake of the incentives, resulting in $52,000 of discounts to property taxes.

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