Town council voted to keep the Corridor’s taxation rate at 90 per cent of the general mill rate for the community on April 28, despite protests from area residents.
“They say that they’re wanting to be fair to all the residents of Hay River,” said Lisa Smith, representing the Corridor Ratepayers Association. “But that’s what we’re arguing. We pay 34 per cent more taxes than the rest of Hay River and we receive less services.”
When the Corridor – the stretch of land along the Mackenzie Highway to Enterprise – was annexed in the 1990s, the tax rate was set at 80 per cent of what other Hay River residents paid. Corridor residents do not receive services like garbage pickup and their home insurance tends to be more expensive because of the time it takes emergency responders to get to them.
However, the Corridor is host to properties that are generally much larger than the typical Hay River residence, and as such, they find themselves paying more per household, despite a lower rate.
Smith went before council April 22 to argue her case once again, saying that Corridor residents aren’t asking for more services, but rather that the agreement struck when the area was annexed, at 80 per cent of the rest of the municipality, be upheld.
“One of the key elements here is whether there is an agreement to keep the rate at 80 per cent,” said Coun. Mike Maher on April 28, referencing a letter that had been written at the time of annexation. “I spoke to the author and I’ve read the letter, and I don’t see anywhere that there has been a guarantee to keep the rate at 80 per cent forever.”
Currently the municipality collects approximately $217,000 a year from just under 70 residents in the Corridor. According to Smith, if the rate was returned to 80 per cent, the town would lose about $23,000 a year in revenue. She also noted that while the average sum charged to West Channel residents is about $1,000 per household, Corridor residents pay an average of $2,500 per year.
“It’s just irritating,” she told The Hub after the April 28 council meeting. “There has been no dialogue at all and no leadership shown by anyone at town hall on this issue.”
Smith said in the past few years she has given four presentations to council, sent seven official letters, as well as countless e-mails on the subject, and has yet to hear a response.
“In public meetings they say they want to talk to us, but then they refuse to respond to us when we ask to talk,” said Smith’s husband Rafe Smith. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Coun. Kandis Jameson said she would be willing to meet in the middle at about 85 per cent, but also noted that the argument for fewer services rendered in the Corridor only went so far.
“The cost of running a town isn’t just about roads and streetlights,” she said. “It’s about the pool and the arena and the library, which I know many of the Corridor residents use.”
Coun. Roger Candow made a motion, seconded by Coun. Brad Mapes, to return the rate to 80 per cent of the general tax rate, but it was voted down. He then suggested a group be put together to further examine the issue.
“I would really like to see this council put together a committee to hash this out with the Corridor ratepayers one more time,” Candow said.
The twenty or so Corridor residents who had come out for the meeting, however, could not be placated. They had already left, exiting en masse when the motion to continue charging them 90 per cent of the regular rate was upheld.