Trent Ernst, Editor
Present: Councillor Mackay (chair) Howe, Krakowka, Scott, Kirby, Caisley
PETITIONS AND DELEGATIONS
UNDERSTANDING FAIR SHARE
Fred Banham was in town to provide Council with an overview of the Fair Share Memorandum of Understanding. Banham says the ‘Fair Share’ Memorandum of Understanding is not a revenue sharing program. It is a regional property tax pool that it shared by an agreement between the Provincial Government represented by the Ministry of Community, Sport & Cultural Development, and the eight Peace region local governments—Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Hudson’s Hope, Pouce Coupe, Taylor, Tumbler Ridge and the Peace River Regional District.
The purpose of the Fair Share MOU is to bridge the gap between the economic benefits of having access to the industrial tax base and the legal authority to access that industrial tax base when it is located outside of municipal boundaries. There is $3.87 billion in industrial assessment not contributing to the municipal governments.
Industry, says Banham, which lies outside the boundaries of the seven incorporated communities in the PRRD, was not contributing tax dollars to pay for services that the workforce, their families and supporting business sector require. The hospitals, the roads, the sidewalks, the recreational facilities, etc.
In 2014 there is $3.87 billion dollars in industrial assessment that is not contributing to local government services, reinforcing how important it is for “Fair Share” to continue, says Banham.
The BC Peace, says Banham, is one of the richest industrial regions in the province. The majority of the workforce lives in municipalities, but most of the industry lies outside. Access to the industrial tax base for the municipalities is inadequate.
Fair Share was originally a five year agreement, from 1994 – 1999 and was worth $4M per year. Banham said the new liberal government recognized the value of Fair Share and signed a new Fair Share agreement, which not only gave local government an increase in dollars, it gave the region’s municipality some comfort, with a ten-year time frame and an increase to $12 million dollars.
Fair Share, version 3, is a 15 year agreement that went into effect in 2005. It is worth a base $20M per year plus and indexed to growth with the condition that if assessments decreased, so did Fair Share.
In 2013 Fair Share is worth $39.4M in industrial tax transfer dollars which calculates to a 97.2% increase in indexed growth from the 2005 benchmark.
In 2015 that $20 million is worth $46 million. Projection was for $53 million. These numbers don’t take LNG into effect, says Banham. It’s only going to go up.
Funding comes from the Province as a lump sum grant to the Regional District, no conditions attached. The Regional District in turn distributes the funds among the seven member municipalities based upon a very unique and adaptable distribution formula. “There are probably only three people in the world who understand how the formula works,” says Banham, “and I am not one of them.”
In its simplest form the distribution formula considers, on an annual basis, population, municipal assessment in Classes 2, 4 and 5 and unincorporated assessment in Classes 2, 4 & 5. The effect is that those municipalities with high population and servicing requirements, with little or no industrial tax assessment get the largest share of the funding and those municipalities with a large industrial assessment and relatively small populations get the smallest share.
With the mines closed, says Banham, Tumbler Ridge stands to get more in Fair Share. “Your access to industrial taxes will go down, so your amount of fair share will go up.”
The new numbers are just being posted right now, he says, so these are last year’s numbers. Tumbler Ridge shouldn’t be getting a big increase this year, he says, but next year it should go up.
Even so, with industrial assessments going up, the District should be getting more, because assessments are going up faster outside the District than inside.
For example, he says, Pouce Coupe has a population of 800 and no Class 4 assessment, gets the greatest amount of money per resident, at $854,000. Fort St. John, on the other hand has 18,000 population but only one industrial Class 4 assessment, so it gets the biggest cheque, at $19.6 million. Hudson’s Hope has the smallest cut of the pie, getting just over half a million. The District of Tumbler Ridge is receiving $1.1 million.
“The unique formula allows for economic flexibility year to year as population changes and industrial activity changes. For example, year 2000 Tumbler Ridge got a small portion of Fair Share because they had industrial assessment within their boundaries. In 2000/2001 the two coal mines shut down which entitled Tumbler Ridge to receive a greater percentage of Fair Share because the industrial assessment was gone.”
Says Banham, as the new mines developed in 2005/2006 and the population again increased, Tumbler Ridge’s share of Fair Share shifted back to being one of those municipalities with access to industrial assessment and therefore less need for Fair Share dollars.
Of course, says Banham, the Memorandum of Understanding is just that, a memorandum. It isn’t a contract, it isn’t written in any bylaw. With an election coming up and a possible new government in power, Banham says there’s a chance that the MOU won’t be honoured. But the first Fair Share agreement was made with an NDP government, the next two with the Liberals, so he is hopeful that if either of those two parties forms the next government, the agreement will continue.
Councillor Howe asks why municipalities don’t just expand their boundaries. Banham says that industry has argued, in the case of Chetwynd, who has created satellite area around the local mills and gas plants, but those industries have complained that they are not getting services.
He says that industry lobbied saying that they didn’t want another level of government to deal with.
Councillor Caisley asks about the commitment that the premier made to renew fair share. Banham says that statement was made as part of the election campaign. Whether that was a full fledged commitment, says Banham, is debatable. They have said they would be interested in renewing it until 2030, he says, but some changes would be made. What those changes are, he doesn’t know.
Councillor Mackay asks about Quintette changing their assessment category to class 6. Banham says his understanding is because Quintette has pulled out most of the equipment, and it would need a lot of work to get into an operational phase. Mackay asks about boundary expansion to take in the proposed Dehua Mine. Assessment comes off wash plants, load outs and other development, not trucks and shovels. If they develop those near town, then Tumbler Ridge wouldn’t need to look at it, but if they build it way out there, then yeah, says Banham, take a look at it.
Councillor Howe leaves.
CITY OF FORT ST. JOHN – HIGH ON ICE
Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman challenges Mayor and Council to compete in the High on Ice Festival Mayor’s Ice Carving Challenge on February 7 from 9:00am–4:00pm.
MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT
Council received correspondence from Executive Director of Water Protection and Sustainability Branch, Ministry of Environment, Lynn Kriwoken, advising Mayor and Council of the Bilateral Water Management Agreements. This is a series of agreements that the Province is currently developing with the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Alberta to define how to work together to cooperatively manage watersheds that cross borders, including the Liard, Petitot, the Peace and Hay Rivers. Key objectives include protecting aquatic ecosystem health.
Teck Senior Vice President of Sustainability and External Affairs Marcia Smith sent Mayor McPherson congratulations on his recent appointment as Mayor.
THANK YOU from Fred Jarvis
Former Taylor Mayor Fred Jarvis sent a thank you to Mayor and Council for the retirement gift.
BUDGET VARIANCE REPORT
Council received an interim report from the Finance Manager to provide Council with the budget variance report to the end of December 2014. Councillor Caisley asks where things are at. Finance Manager Chris Leggett says there is a detailed timeline extending out to May, but first meeting with Council is Feb 16.
TUMBLER RIDGE EMPLOYMENT SUPPORT
Council directs staff to write a letter to Work BC and any appropriate provincial agency requesting an increase in Work BC services in Tumbler Ridge.
Council approves travels costs for Mayor McPherson’s and Councillor Mackay’s travel to Vancouver.
Councillor Caisley had a discussion on Jan 15 with economic development officer for Fraser basin to discuss overall effectiveness of Peace River regional district. On Jan 19, he attended meeting with Minister Bennett, before the public meeting the next day, discussing mining, Site C, and everything. Councillor Caisley says he was impressed at the confidence the minister showed for the future of Tumbler Ridge. He also attended the Jan 20 announcement. He was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who showed up. He suggests there might have been 250 to 300 people there.
Councillor Kirby attended the same meeting and announcement with Minister Bennett. Has attended a number of meetings around Geopark and museum. She sat in on a phone call with HD Mining, and attended JTSD meeting.
Councillor Scott attended a meeting that discussed Site C and LNG meeting in Fort St. John. Attended Geopark workshop. Brainstorming session was awesome. Was at a meeting regarding health and socio-economic impact of HD Mine. She says training was discussed, but HD says they aren’t going to move on that until they are through the EA process. She attended meeting and open house with minister Bennett. One of the bits of information she gained always that they are not planning a camp for Meikle.
Councillor Krakowka was at HD meetings and Minister Bennett meetings, so won’t go into that. Attended meeting with the mayor and the seniors group regarding issues arriving at Willow Hall. He asks after cell phones in Community Centre. Miss Torraville says cell boosters have been installed, but have not been hooked up, but should be done by end of week. He comments about the window paintings. He thinks that’s very sharp.
He wants to put out a big thank you to our local RCMP officers in light of what happened in St. Albert.
He has heard that new chairs aren’t being used for bingo. He’s wondering why. Torraville says those chairs were purchased for movie nights and the old chairs are still just fine. But if council wants them to be made available to everyone, they will be made available.
Councillor Mackay says the Meikle announcement shows how interested people are in what’s happening around town. He says he is disappointed that wind projects are probably going to fall off the map for a while. He says there are so many ideas around wind power, including suggestions of a partnership between a company and the district. Boralex and Enercon have combined to put in a new proposal for a site near Moose Lake. What they do differently is build concrete towers, and they’ve proposed building a concrete plant in Tumbler Ridge to build these towers. Everything else, he might have to say has already been talked about.