Port Alberni city council is not planning to reduce taxes for light industry in 2021, but councillors are considering a revitalization tax exemption bylaw that will incentivize new development in the city.
The San Group—owners of a new remanufacturing facility in Port Alberni—appeared before a budget meeting earlier this year to request that the city keep the 2021 light industry tax rate at or near the 2020 rate.
The current financial plan shows the light industry tax rate increasing by more than 30 percent compared to the tax rate in 2020. However, council pointed out during another budget meeting on Monday, March 15 that 2020 was an anomaly.
Historically, the two industry classes (light and major) have had similar tax rates in Port Alberni. In 2020 there was a change in assessed value within the light industry class due to San Group’s new development, which caused the tax rate to drop.
“I think we have to be cautious of comparing 2020 and 2021 because of how we saw that dip in tax rate,” said Mayor Sharie Minions on Monday.
In the proposed 2021 budget, the city is looking at blocking both industry classes together again, which means that heavy industry and light industry will be taxed at the same rate—an increase for light industry, and a decrease of about three percent for major industry.
Dennis Hickson, representing the San Group, told the committee on Monday that the tax increase is “unfair” and said that Port Alberni’s light industry tax rate will be one of the highest in the province.
“That seems perverse, in that the San Group is the one that is investing in the community,” he said.
Hickson added that San Group does intend to make more presentations to council in the coming weeks.
During the March 15 budget meeting, the committee asked city staff to bring back a report with information about a revitalization tax exemption (RTE) bylaw. An RTE bylaw provides tax breaks for certain properties in exchange for economic, social or environmental revitalization within a community.
Historically, the city has had RTE bylaws for both commercial and industrial properties. However, the RTE for industry had very few applicants, so the bylaw lapsed, explained manager of finance Andrew McGifford. The commercial RTE bylaw is still in effect.
Minions said that an industrial RTE bylaw will provide an incentive for the types of development that the city wants to see, such as green building practices or even waterfront access.
“I am really excited about this coming forward,” said Minions. “We want to see this type of investment in our community. Specifically, we want to see the type of investment that San Group is making, where they are really looking at the next generation of the forest industry.”