There’s taxes and then there’s fees and charges.
The City of Prince George has increased taxes every year for the past decade or more. Fees and charges have also increased, leading to criticism that with taxes continually increasing, residents should get a break on fees and charges as well.
Not the case. Council decided Monday to accept a staff recommendation to increase fees and charges by three per cent per year until 2019.
“The city provides a great range of services, most of these services are funded through property taxation,” said Kris Dalio, city director of finance. “But we also have services that are provided that can be recovered by a charge to the actual users of the services. When possible the city attempts to recover the costs of those services directly from the user.”
Sometimes, he said, the full cost is recovered, sometimes it is not.
The last time the fees and charges were updated was in 2013.
“The cost of providing these services increases each year,” Dalio said. “… In order for the tax levy to not bear the full impact of these increases when they occur, user fees and charges should also be increased.”
This will impact the cemetery, CN Centre, arenas, Civic Centre, aquatic facilities, Pine Valley, school use fees, the Playhouse, and animal control.
Coun. Garth Frizzell questioned whether the city was fully recovering the cost of Freedom of Information requests and was told they do not cover the actual cost.
It’s essential that we provide these services, but the cost to the people of Prince George is exorbitant and it’s not covered by the fees and services,” said Frizzell.
Coun. Albert Koehler, who voted against tax increase said he will vote as a fee increase “to be consistent.”
Coun. Brian Skakun said he would like to say “no” but as the alternative would be to use the tax levy, he would support the fee increases.
Coun. Jillian Merrick said she was concerned there will be some “sticker shock,” for user groups who will be hit with the increase in less than a month. However, she added, regular increases over a number of years is better than the “political” game of holding increases to zero per cent and then hitting groups with a large increase in one year.
Mayor Lyn Hall said the city subsidizes many of the facilities in the range of 48 to 52 per cent.
“I don’t tie this to our tax levy,” Hall said. “I see this as a separate issue. We deal with this year-in and year-out.”
Council gave first three readings to changing the fees and services bylaw.