Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tax collecting on an Island of ghosts

"We spent Skeena Cellulose money longer than we should have because council was convinced if the taxes didn’t come from Skeena Cellulose it would come from the government and our residents paid for it,” -- Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne, outlining her disapproval of the inclusion of potential revenues from the still non-operating Sun Wave owned pulp mill at Watson Island.

The Northern View outlines an interesting approach to financial prediction, as the City of Prince Rupert decided to include in its budget estimates this year, the estimated level of taxation that the Watson island Pulp Mill might provide to the city.

It's a controversial bit of financial guesstimating, one that in the past has come back to haunt the city as the anticipated revenues were calculated in, but in the end never collected as the pulp mill lands went through the various twists and turns under the ownership of the Sun Wave group.

This time around the anticipated revenue stream is included in the city's budget estimates for the 2009 five year Financial plan, one which will see a 3.8 per cent increase in civic taxes as well as a number of service cutbacks put in place.

It was an inclusion that did not sit too well with Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne, who highlighting the past few years where the city included money that never came in, suggested that it might be best to leave the Sun Wave projections off the books until they show that there is an operating mill in place.

On the other side of the argument was Councillor Joy Thorkelson, who outlined her thoughts that the city would be the owners of that land, should Sun Wave reneges on its commitment to pay taxes or if no other company purchases the land to pay those taxes.

It is a distinct possibility that the land could end up in the City of Prince Rupert's hands this year, but if it does, it is unlikely that it will be a revenue generating location in the short term. Still unknown is if the City will be responsible for any expenses should ownership be turned over to the city, unknown costs that may come to pass as Sun Wave exits the scene, should things come to that point.

Councillor Thorkelson seemed to sway the remainder of council, as the issue came to a vote Councillor Gordon-Payne held the only dissenting vote when it came to inclusion of pulp mill revenues in the projections.

Time will tell in the end which councillor was on the right track when it comes to the revenue stream of Watson Island, though if you are working on recent history, one might think that Councillor Gordon-Payne was showing the most prudent opinion when it comes to spending money on hand, rather than money that might be beyond the grasp.

No comments: