Often business slows in the City of Trail during the languid days of summer.
This week, however, municipal leaders had plenty of items to check off the must-do list, beginning with the matter of property tax penalties. With property levies historically due around Canada Day, during the ensuing governance meetings in July, Trail council usually deals with a handful of requests for late fee reversals – and this year was no exception. Granted all appeals to waiver the 10 per cent penalty are considered, city representatives will deny all requests, no matter the reason.
(That is, unless it can be demonstrated that city staff made an error in processing or handling a payment)
On Monday, council denied four such cases.
“I think it’s appropriate at this time to remind taxpayers that although individuals may feel their reasons are warranted, ” began governance chair Coun. Sandy Santori. “I think they have to understand if we were to be lenient on this going forward, that we could literally receive hundreds and hundreds of reasons as to why people did not pay.”
He continued, “Taxes have always been, and will continue to be, due around June 30. Unfortunately council’s hands are basically tied in terms of waiving these penalties and starting to establish precedent based on these reasons as to why they did not (pay on time),” he added.
“So I would encourage people, whether it be through Microsoft Outlook or some other sort of reminder, to advance their calendars accordingly.”
Another tax-related memo – this one from the BC Assessment Authority appeal board – could only be received and filed by council during the Monday governance meeting, even though it will dig into city coffers by $31,000.
Anthem Properties, owners of Waneta Plaza Mall, challenged the value of their property with the provincial appeal board. Retroactive to 2016, the city owes the company $17,200 from last year and $14,000 for 2017.
As a matter of process, property owners can effectively challenge the value of their property established by the BC Assessment Authority, explained Chief Administrative Officer David Perehudoff.
“(The assessment) is used for the purpose of determining what the property will pay annually for property taxes once property tax rates have been established by the city and other governments,” he said. “What is concerning … is the significance of the adjustments and how the BC Assessment Authority can seemingly ‘miss’ the assessments by such a wide margin.”
After the company’s successful appeal, the property assessment value has dropped by $3.6 million or about 39 per cent since 2016.
“Major losses in assessment are clearly a concern,” Perehudoff noted. “And when considering that the City of Trail’s local economy seems to be on a positive upswing, it is hoped that further adjustments of this nature, with any warning, will not occur in the future.”
Face off for ice times
Last month, Trail council agreed to an earlier start time for Friday night Smoke Eater games. Beginning this season, Friday night games will begin at 7 p.m., which is a half hour earlier than previous years. Since making that decision, the city received a letter of complaint from the River Rats Hockey Club, a recreation team that is a long standing renter of the ice on Fridays. The time change will impact their 5:15-6:15 p.m. slot by 15 minutes on 10 nights during regular season, a move the team deems “unfair.” The River Rats brought their stance to the governance meeting this week, however, Coun. Santori says council’s 7 p.m. policy will prevail.
“Based on what they (Trail Smoke Eaters) are hearing from their fans and based on what’s happening throughout the league, parents are commenting that 7:30 p.m. games are a bit late for children,” he told the Trail Times.
“In the decision-making process, with all due respect to the recreation hockey team, 5:15 p.m. times are unheard of for recreational hockey … if Smokies play or if there’s a minor hockey tournament on a given night, even commercial league gets bumped according to policy.”
Santori furthered that council did look at the situation through an economic and political lens, so the 7 p.m. policy will stand.
“We are hoping the two parties can work it out on their own,” he said. “But we do have to acknowledge this person (Smoke Eater owners Rich and Annie Murphy) have put a $1 million investment into a facility that is ours, and those improvements will always remain there,” Santori added.