If Weyerhaeuser leaves Kamloops, how would that impact the
community? That, to me, is the fundamental question that underlines all
the current talk about the possibility of reducing local taxes for this
giant forest company.
Weyerhaeuser employs about 1000 people in Kamloops and pays about 5 million dollars in city taxes each year.
Local company managers approached council in January with their
concerns that the taxes they pay in Kamloops are too high - according
to studies, more than double the provincial average. They also asked us
to consider giving them a 5 to 10 year tax break on the value of any
improvements they make to their local facilities.
Council struck a committee to look at industrial taxation and that
committee has been working. Weyerhaeuser recently also asked that their
current tax bill be freezed.
I believe we must tread very carefully here - for one primary
reason. Any reduction in Weyerhaeuser taxes would likely increase
residential tax rates. We have a lot of homeowners in Kamloops who have
a tough enough time, as it is, keeping up with rising costs of living.
And I worry about people who would have no choice but to give up on
their homes or downsize.
So, while it might be a good idea to have industrial taxation rates
more in line with the provincial averages, I would like to create the time to thoroughly
examine revenue generating opportunities and greater efficiencies within City operations so we
don't have to unduly burden homeowners. Council has already endorsed a
gradual reduction - I believe we need to work to prevent the reduction from becoming a one for one shift.
Within Weyerhaeuser, there seems to be intense competition among
different mills and divisions for funding from the company. They would like the Council to help them with putting their best foot forward. Here's my thought, based on what I know right now:
I am currently leaning towards working to expedite a revitalization tax exemption for Weyerhaeuser that would see the community exempt the value of any improvements to their local operation from taxation for a period of 5 to 10 years. Weyerhaesuer would have to invest to get that exemption. So, it would be a show of goodwill from the company and the community.
I hope they will give great consideration to "green"
technologies. There is concern in Kamloops about Weyerhaeuser's
The Mayor led a group to Quesnel - where they provided such an
exemption for their mill. I look forward to hearing what they found out.
The last thought I have on this issue today is that it is best to be prepared for any possibility. Weyerhaeuser may close down in Kamloops no matter we do. And we need to consider how we are going to help people transition to other productive lives if that happens.