Photo: Castlegar councillor Russ Hearne
The City of Castlegar is responding in no uncertain terms to Gord Zaitsoff's charge that the city is in violation of the Local Government Act by not paying Celgar's portion of the regional tax bill (as Celgar has not paid said bill).
Zaitsoff, a Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) director, said Monday morning that the city should pay the $375,000 owed the district despite the fact that Celgar has not paid the amount owing, adding the city's failure to do so puts regional services in jeopardy.
Further, he suggested the RDCK should enter into negotiations with Celgar's parent company, Mercer International, to have Celgar moved out of city-governed land and into RDCK jurisdiction, arguing the district could then find a way to help Celgar remain viable while serving residents of the region.
Castlegar city councillor and major-industry-tax task force committee member Russ Hearne called the media attack, “an unprofessional, counterproductive and inappropriate way for an elected official to behave.
“I guess regional cooperation only works during the good times,” he said. “They (the RDCK) just want their little bit, and they don't care about the hardship to the people of Castlegar.”
Hearne pointed out that, while Celgar's refusal to pay its tax bill does represent a major hit to district coffers, of $375,000 to be exact, Castlegar is sustaining a $2.8 million shortfall without Celgar's taxes and shouldn't be forced to bear the burden of other jurisdictions' delinquent invoices as well.
“I understand their frustration, I truly do,” he said. “However, we don't feel the taxpayers of Castlegar should be on the hook for the RDCK's invoices when they're not paid. It's their invoice ... we're just the collector. We collect the taxes, then remit to them (the RDCK). In this case, because Celgar didn't pay, there's nothing to remit.”
As to Zaitsoff's clam the city is violating the Local Government Act by not paying the regional district their portion of Celgar's tax bill, Hearne said that's a matter of perspective.
“It's all in how you interpret the act,” he said. “Our interpretation is that the money is owed them (the RDCK) by Celgar, not by Castlegar.”
Finally, he said Zaitsoff's bid to have Celgar under RDCK jurisdiction is “absurd”.
“It's undermining the city and it doesn't help any of the problems at hand,” he said.
Zaitsoff was not available for comment at the time this story was posted.