Although Ladysmith’s industrial mill rate is almost double that of any other municipality on the Central Island, at $106.07 per thousand dollars of assessed value, Mayor Aaron Stone and Chief Administrative Officer Ruth Malli say it’s not necessarily out of line, and that the situation is a lot better than it used to be.
“The real story here is that council has made significant progress with reducing the community reliance upon taxation revenues, and specifically industrial taxation,” Malli said in response to a query from the Chronicle.
She pointed out that in ‘previous decades’ the town’s reliance on industry amounted to over a third of its total tax base, a situation which put Ladysmith at serious risk of either having to drastically cut services or increase residential and commercial property taxes should an industry either leave or close down.
“The town met with the industrial tax payers and agreed to a strategy of moving reliance on industrial taxes down one per cent per annum,” she recounted. “This resulted in 12 per cent of tax now coming from industry, compared to 33 per cent previously.”
The actual amount industry pays has remained ‘relatively constant’ over that period, Malli noted.
Figures for 2015, provided by Director of Financial Services Erin Anderson, peg Major Industry’s tax contribution at $970,952. That compares to $1.2 million for tax payers in the Light Industry and Business classes.
There are three rate payers in the Major Industry category: Western Forest Products, Coman-Western Lumber, and Oak Bay Marina Ltd.
As a component of Ladysmith’s overall revenues property taxes have to be put into context, too. They accounted for 38 per cent of total revenues (excluding borrowing); that compares to a ‘typical’ ratio of 50 per cent in other B.C. municipalities.
“Ladysmith achieves this by utilizing a user-pay strategy and also doing the work that is required to qualify for and get significant grants to pay for infrastructure,” Malli said.
Mayor Stone also said you can’t just compare mill rates and draw conclusions about who’s offering tax payers the best ‘package’ for the services they receive from a municipality.
Municipalities structure their services and how they are paid for differently. For example, how is waste water treatment managed and paid for? What are the various classes of property worth in a municipality? What is the value of being within a municipality to an industry or business, and what sort of services are industrial and business ratepayers receiving?
“These are calculations you need to actually analyze,” he said. He has been making a study of the industrial and business tax rates in Ladysmith, compared to surrounding municipalities, and believes Ladysmith has a lot to offer. “When you start looking at the sum total on business, we’re competitive,” he said.