Iqaluit tax rate to rise

Average homeowner to pay $200 more this year



IQALUIT — Iqaluit’s municipal taxes are on the rise.

The mill rate — the amount paid to the city per $1,000 of assessed property value — is going up by two mills.

For a homeowner currently paying $2,000 in taxes, the increase means a further $150 that would go to the city’s coffers. A resident paying $3,000 would shell out another $225.

It’s the first mill-rate-driven tax hike in Iqaluit in five years. Mayor John Matthews said the city tried to delay the increase until next year, but it just wasn’t financially feasible.

Matthews said the city needs extra cash for projects like paving and utilidor pipes. He also said the rate hike is an indication of the city’s commitment to solving it’s own financial problems.

Coun. Keith Irving said the council reluctantly agreed to the mill-rate increase in conjunction with other cost-cutting initiatives that are underway.

Valid requests for money are made to the council every meeting, he said, and the federal and territorial governments are unlikely to give the city money if they feel Iqaluit taxpayers aren’t contributing their share.

“It will be difficult for our ratepayers,” Irving said. “But I think it’s the right decision.”

With Tuesday’s hike, the mill rate for ordinary homeowners will rise to 29.55.

According to Matthews, the hike will bring in $350,000 in extra money. The average ratepayer will hand over an additional $200.

The institutional rate will go up to 42 mills and the commercial rate will go to 38.2 mills.

Between 1990 and 2000 the residential mill rate in Iqaluit fluctuated between 25.4 and 32.27.

For general contractor and developer George D’Aoust, the approximate five per cent increase came as a surprise.

“I think we only have one or two leases we can increase. So yes, it’s definitely an added expense we can’t recoup. In other words, we’ll make less profit, that’s for sure. I’m not going to say that I disagree wholeheartedly, because I don’t have all the particulars. But I’m always disappointed in a tax increase, because we can never pass it on.”

He said even subsidized rents are already so high it’s not easy to raise them, but he doesn’t blame council for the decision. All expenses seem to be increasing, he said.

“We have a very small tax base here I think that’s some of the problem. That’s why we can’t pave anything,” D’Aoust said. “We’re in a weird situation. If they raise taxes to pay a debenture to pay to clean up the town, nobody can afford the rent. It’s sort of a catch-22.”

Businessman and former mayor Bryan Pearson says the problem is more fundamental than that.

“An increase in taxes is brought about by a lack of ability and skill on behalf of the town council to manage the affairs of the community in an efficient and economic way,” he said.

He said the city had to raise the mill rate because it has too many employees and is unable to secure funding for infrastructure from the federal government.

“Manage with what you’ve got,” Pearson said, and lobby the federal government for more money.

Pearson said when that he was mayor, members of the ratepayers’ association came to council and made their opinions known. Today’s ratepayers are too complacent, he said.

If taxes are too high, he warned, the city becomes unattractive as a residential or commercial location and people will simply go elsewhere.

Tax notices will be sent out to residents in the next few weeks.

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