Mayors and councillors packed a session at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention yesterday to hear more about the growing problem of local industries telling small resource towns that they’re not going to pay their tax bills or that they need to have their taxes lowered. (My story in the Globe here.)
It’s obviously a problem that people are worried will hit them in the future, even if nothing has happened to date. As the group heard, six towns are already embroiled in court cases with their pulp mill industries while even more are having ongoing negotiations with mills in their jurisdictions as those companies push for lowered taxes.
It’s pretty much the same argument that Vancouver’s been hearing for a while now from its business community: we pay taxes at a much higher rate than residential owners, yet we don’t use anywhere near as many services. And then they sometimes produce reports to show their calculations on what services they think they use.
All a worrying trend for municipal politicians, for a couple of reasons. One is the straight money problem. If industries get their tax bills reduced, who is going to pay more or how is the hole in the budget going to be filled. Then there’s the larger issue. If everyone starts insisting that they should only pay for the services they actually use, what havoc does that potentially wreak on the collective idea of taxes.