Sand has been kicked in the face of the communities of Greater Trail by the Silver City and regional harmony is now precariously perched by a move to expand its boundaries.
The City of Trail recently released details of a mutual agreement that outlined Trail’s intent to expand its boundary into Teck-owned land in Area A.
But the agreement is going to focus economic development strictly on Trail, no longer making it a regional effort as it was under the Lower Columbia Initiative Corporation, said Rossland councillor Kathy Moore.
“I think it is highly unlikely that there will be much appetite for regional economic development when Trail has the whole of the doughnut, taken care of by the gift from Teck,” she said.
She said Rossland needed to talk to its neighbours—Warfield and the Beaver Valley—and bring up the subject of amalgamation again now and gauge the desire to generate support to just look at a study to see what the impacts of it might be.
“It is really inequitable to have one community get all of the benefit from the only industrial tax base that is within our region,” she said.
She has suggested the city should write to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and protest the move by Trail.
Councillor Kathy Wallace agreed.
“I think this (boundary expansion) is going in the exact opposite direction of where our communities should be going, and I’m not against writing a letter of support but I do think we need to understand the situation fully,” she said.
Towards that end Area A director Ali Grieve appeared before council on June 17 to present their side of the matter.
Area A has Seven Mile Dam that contributes $1.2 million in revenue to the Kootenay Boundary Regional District of which Rossland and Trail are members of. That money pays for all of the administration costs for the entire regional district government including the Boundary.
“Should a boundary expansion proceed, it is likely the people of the Beaver Valley will ask to revisit that tax sharing level,” said Grieve.
She asked Rossland for support to oppose any boundary expansion that has the potential to “negatively impact other communities, and further to oppose the concentration of so many tax dollars within one community.”
Councillor Jill Spearn was personally alarmed when she heard of Trail’s deal with Teck. She said the move did not foster regional relationships between municipal governments.
“And let’s face it, we have been struggling with some of our regional relationships and we have offered the olive branch a number of times to our neighbours down the hill in a number of different ways,” she said. “I just feel it is becoming less co-operative than we need to have in this day and age in regard to finding efficiencies around a number of regional projects.”
With only one industrial tax base for the region, Spearn added, it should be shared. Moore agreed.
“I personally don’t believe it is healthy to take that large of an amount of tax dollars and put that into the control of one community,” she said. “That doesn’t make sense and it is just giving too much power and control to one particular community.”
Boundary expansion was recently resurrected at the request of the property owners’ in the Columbia Gardens Industrial Park.
The tentative agreement between the City of Trail and Teck on boundary expansion would see Teck’s property taxation be reduced in return for the company’s financial support of economic development in Trail and of boundary expansion.
Trail has been instructed by Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to come up with a reasonable offer to reduce the impact on the BVPARKS and Recreation service, which could be in the neighbourhood of $160,000 to $460,000, said Grieve.
In the first consultant report on the boundary expansion, there was a proposal that provided a revenue transfer of $220,000 of the $374,000 that the service could lose, meaning a $54 increase in property taxes to a $200,000 home in Area A if the service did not reduce its level of spending.
“At no time, nor in any way, will we accept that the residents and taxpayers of the Beaver Valley will have to face reductions in the services provided or tax increases,” said Grieve.
“Our community must not suffer in any way due to the proposals of the City of Trail.”
The agreement between Teck Trail Operations and the City of Trail must be submitted to the province for ratification after a study update is done and a disposition of concerns is addressed.
The existing report is based on 2011 financial information.
“What is frustrating to the Beaver Valley residents is they will never get vote on this,” said Grieve. The vote lies with the residents of the City of Trail,
The city plans on using the alternate approval process.
The agreement includes a long term tax certainty for Teck Trail Operations from its current 63 per cent municipal tax revenue to be reduced to 55 per cent over time. In 2013, Teck’s portion of the overall city’s taxes was almost $7 million.
In the agreement Teck will provide a one-time community investment of $1 million to focus on economic development within the city limits, and a 20-year community investment of $225,000 for economic development and diversification.