Residents, not mill carrying bulk of big tax hike in North Cowichan

North Cowichan homeowners will pay an average of $200 more in municipal taxes this year as councillors shifted more tax burden to residential properties from industrial sites, such as Crofton’s Catalyst pulp mill.

That 10 per cent uplift in home taxes — up from eight per cent last year — compares to this year’s 3.9 per cent tax increase for the industrial sector.

The corporate uplift compares to last year’s 7.6 per cent drop in industrial taxes, treasurer Mark Frame said.

Both tax hops were approved Wednesday in council’s $38.6-million budget.

But Councillor Al Siebring wanted more balance between home and industrial taxes.

“It’s too high a load on the residential side and not large enough on the industrial side.”

North Cowichan’s total budget has been ramped by some $2.6 million this year, Frame explained.

The 2011 budget also sees Catalyst shoulder about 90 per cent of the municipality’s $6.3-million industrial tax load, Frame said.

That’s in addition to about $4.4 million the mill still owes North Cowichan in 2010 back taxes.

Specifics of Catalyst’s refusal to pay its 2010 total tax bill will be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada Oct. 17.

Provincial agents are expected to support North Cowichan’s tax claims, Siebring said.

“Catalyst is entitled to try and challenge us.”

Meanwhile, Siebring noted this year’s tax hit for homeowners is basically neutralized by a $200 hike in the provincial homeowner grant.

“In terms of the bottom line, it’s almost a saw-off.”

Council is also trying to attract more commercial and industrial firms here to broaden the municipal tax base.

“We’re looking at the notion of a tax holiday for new construction and upgrades to businesses,” he said, citing economic development zones in Chemainus, plus investment opportunities at a university village around the new VIU campus.