Northern B.C. chamber of commerce concerned with tax increases

The Dawson Chamber of Commerce met with city council at their November 14 meeting this week, expressing concerns over tax increases.

While he admits he doesn’t have the holistic perspective of council, chamber executive director Duncan Malkinson said he has a responsibility to bring forward his members' concerns, noting that an increase in general municipal taxes will be a challenge for many residents.

“We all strive for, you know, a good balance between you know tax rates, affordability, business prosperity,” said Malkinson. “And the chamber prides itself and being a positive advocate for, you know, the economic and social welfare of the of the South Peace.”

A budget assumptions report was released in October, and estimated that taxes need to rise from $21.1 million in 2023 to $23.4 million in 2024, $24.3 million in 2025, $25.5 million in 2026, and $26.3 million in 2027, as the city pivots to a 70/30 revenue split with their operations and the Peace River Agreement.

The agreement funds will stayed fixed for the five-year increase, at $16.2 million annually.

“Definitely there’s cost pressures throughout the budgeting process,” said Malkinson. “And you know, our goal as a chamber is to basically introduce some de-escalating pressure on that budgeting process as well - so that council can recognize the challenges that business owners experience.”

While historically the town has been very affordable for small businesses and families, property taxes are becoming a struggle, especially for those with large buildings and shops, explained Malkinson.

“Given that this year looks like it's going to be significant on the property tax front, you know, we encourage council to review costs closely over the next few months and to spread this increase over time if possible,” said Malkinson.

Councillor Jerimy Earl said the budget is a balancing act, and depends on number of factors, which includes city projects and market forces, but their goal remains reaching the 70/30 split by 2030.

“I appreciate the chamber needs to be mindful of these issues on behalf of members,” said Earl, noting he was once professionally involved with the chamber himself, and is understanding of their concerns.

Mayor Darcy Dober said the matter isn’t one that council takes lightly, noting he understands there are residents in Dawson Creek who have fixed incomes.

“It’s been a year with this new council, and you know, I really believe and feel that every decision we’ve made is really trying what’s just right for our community as a whole,” said Dober.

“It’s tough times, right? With inflation and even the inflation the city’s facing, and so many years of no tax increase too, there’s so many different variables that come in,” he added.

Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alaska Highway News