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Kervin’s Corner: District of Port Hardy’s property tax hike ranks fourth highest across the island

The District imposed a tax structure placing a $2,908 property tax burden on homeowners.

Port Hardy ranks fourth on Vancouver Island with the highest hikes on municipal taxes. Oak Bay, Victoria and Parksville all rank above our local community, according to John McKinley’s June 23, 2018 article.

The District of Port Hardy imposed a tax structure placing a $2,908 property tax burden on homeowners. Port Hardy’s financial report released last January of 2018 outlined various reasons for anticipated increases in service costs.

Still, Port Hardy has the second highest municipal tax on a half million dollar home (“mill rate”), ranking below Port Alberni.

Interestingly, Oak Bay has a median household income that is 50 per cent higher than the average Canadian household. Victoria has a median family income of roughly just below $90,000. Parksville has an average household income of $72,000. Port Hardy has hovered around a median family income of $59,000 over the past 10 years.

While our community has a family income still $6,000 above the provincial average, does it justify our ranking as the fourth highest tax hike in the last year across the island?

Not to mention the fact that, generally, these other three communities are thought to be affluent. The average house assessment for Oak Bay is $1.3 million. Victoria’s average is $743,000. Even when compared to Parksville’s $401,101 average, the wealth disparity is still clear.

Port Hardy has an average assessment of $165,595. It’s no surprise, however, since Port Hardy is historically a blue-collared community. While on the other hand these other communities are suburban or city communities which may mean they have diversified economies.

What with Port Hardy being a rural community then, one would think our taxes would be quite low. It’s usually expected that these bigger communities – Oak Bay, Victoria and Parksville – usually cost more to taxpayers.

It makes me wonder what could possibly justify an unprecedented raise in taxes over the next four years? This is especially relevant since we are not a community that can afford it after one of our main industries – mining – hasn’t boosted our economy for quite some time.

Whether it’s the multiplex project, renewed firefighting services, or a combination of a number of different costs, it’s still unfair to Port Hardy residents.

What’s even more interesting, however, is that our neighbouring town Port McNeill ranks the lowest in total taxes on an average home across the island. They only raised taxes by 2.7 percent this year. Port Hardy raised residential tax rates by 4.0 percent.

Of course, it may be unfair to compare the two towns since it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison, but let’s be honest here. A $754 difference in total taxes on an average home between our two towns is a bit much. The average residential assessment for Port McNeill hovers around $188,461 while Port Hardy is just below it at $165,595. It goes to show Port Hardy has a progressively worse tax burden to homeowners than its peers.

According to a study done on BC municipalities and taxation, tax leaps such as this could have unforeseen consequences to the community. It could disrupt our local economy by putting an increasing burden on local businesses. It also shows instability which may be a turnoff to possible investors.

The most likely reason for such hikes, even despite risks, is to raise revenue so to meet the bottom line, at least according to the study. Seems simple enough, but the results could be disastrous.

I’d be curious about what exactly caused mayor and council to go this route – what sorts of spending decisions were made to warrant increased costs to Port Hardy taxpayers?

Thomas Kervin is a recent political science alumnus from Simon Fraser University. He was born and raised in Port Hardy. He’s also a First Nations person who wants to address issues facing Indigenous communities today.

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