No surprises in the decisions made at tonight’s meeting. There were a few interesting details, though….
For instance, the Mosaic Company — the yet-to-be-built Hill Tower III’s most prominent yet-to-be tenant — received their five-year property tax exemption. Grand total in taxes the city is giving up: $639,715. Lot of money, sure, but nothing shocking about the city agreeing to the exemption. This is The Mosaic Company, after all.
The interesting thing here is that according to the program under which they qualify for that exemption — the Economic Development Incentive Program — Mosaic technically only qualifies for an exemption from 75 per cent of their property taxes. Instead they’re getting out of the full 100 per cent.
Well, the Regina Regional Opportunities Commission, which makes recommendations about these tax exemptions, decided to give Mosaic credit for some stuff that isn’t included as exemption-worthy under the EDI Program — specifically, Mosaic’s history of supporting the community and the fact that it’s their head office that they’re moving here.
For all that, they’re getting $159,928 more than what they’re technically entitled to under the policy.
Ward 1 councillor, Louis Browne, hailed this as a demonstration of flexibility in our city’s policies. And, you know, it is a great comfort to know that a prominent potash corporation can count on Regina being flexible in the application of its tax exemption policies.
But you know who can’t? Non-profits.
Flashback to the April 27 council meeting of 2009: Souls Harbour Mission asked for a tax abatement from city council. They’d purchased an old church and were planning to convert it into a youth centre and daycare. But the church had a lien against it for the taxes the old owner hadn’t paid and Souls Harbour was asking for those to be forgiven. Would have set the city back $112,858.
That’s $47,070 less than what Mosaic is getting for being a good — and prominent! — corporate citizen.
But council turned Souls Harbour down saying their hands were tied, there’s no policy in place to grant such a substantial abatement.
I guess, helping youth at risk and providing low-cost, high-quality child care doesn’t warrant much in the way of flexibility from council. Can’t have all those non-profits who fritter away their time helping people getting tax exemptions. No advantage in that. Those are best saved for potash corporations and parkades. (Oh yeah, the McCallum Hill Centre Parkade also got their tax exemption.)
Fortunately, thanks to the fundraising efforts of Souls Harbour (with a little help from a $200,000 grant from the province), they got their youth centre up and running. They’ve named it Zieke’s Place and it looks like it’s shaping up to be a great addition to the neighbourhood.
We’ll have to wait and see how great an addition Hill Tower III and their tenant Mosaic will prove to be.
Also of interest, the city approved the proposed water utility rate hikes — nine per cent per year for three years. There was a lot of concern expressed over the fact that this increase was necessitated, in part, by changes to federal waste-water regulations. Councillor Clipsham pointed out that with the stroke of a pen, the federal government has effectively created the largest property tax increase in Canadian history. Meanwhile, Ward 8’s Councillor O’Donnell took note of how, when Victoria and Halifax recently built their first ever water treatment facilities, the federal government stepped up to support those projects. In Regina, however, we’ve always treated our waste water, noted O’Donnell, but we’re receiving exactly zero support from the Feds. Sounds a little unfair, no?
Mayor Fiacco closed things out by pointing out the importance of raising the water rates at this time, noting that there really is no other way for the city to pay for upgrades to the system and guarantee quality drinking water over the long term. He said that he didn’t want his legacy as mayor to be leaving this city with a water problem like North Battleford or Walkerton.
In fact, in his comments on the rate hikes, Fiacco spent a notable amount of time talking about his “legacy.” Used the word at least five times. Read into that what you will.
Also at the meeting, council directed the administration to look at that bylaw that won’t allow people to run extension cords out to their cars parked on the street. Apparently, this has been a big deal in the media (okay, yeah, I guess technically we count as media but I’d heard next to nothing about this until tonight but, hey, I’m myopic that way). And, apparently, this all came about because of the actions of one guy who has more cars than car-sized spots in his driveway.
Well, council was listening to him. Intently. It was practically tripping over its collective self to demonstrate how open it is to finding a compromise on this important issue.
Great! I’m glad they’re taking this so seriou—- oh my, I’m getting woozy! I think I’m having another one of those flashbacks. Pages are flying back onto my wall calendar. They stop at January 26, 2009. I’m at a council meeting! Look! There are several delegations coming forward — one of which seems to be a guy from Canada Post. They’re all asking the city to look into some kind of “shoveling bylaw.” You know, so as to make sidewalks safer and more convenient for pedestrians. Oh, what’s council doing? They seem to be… I can’t quite make it out, the Fogs of Time can be so foggy… are they directing administration to examine the issue? Ummmmm….. no… they seem to be sending the delegations packing.
Well, so much for that.
Back to the present….
Also passed at tonight’s meeting was the West Industrial Lands Secondary Plan, a bunch of park renamings, the Concrete Maintenance Summary was received and filed, and Vic East will be getting wider so you’ll have one more lane in which to get frustrated over how you can never seem to get to the right lane to exit to get to whatever box store it is you were driving to.
As for the city’s budgets, these, along with the Waste Plan implementation plan, have all be tabled until the January 18 council meeting.
And that ends my last council wrapup of 2010. See you next year!