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bc rail grant

By Amy Fendley Each year normal businesses and individuals have to pay their property taxes by July 2nd. BC Rail, however is not a normal business. The railway is a Crown corporation operating as a commercial entity and as such is not required to behave like other businesses. Many communities, such as the ones in the Sea to Sky Corridor, are hosts to the rail industry. But this year, as in almost every other year, host municipalities have received no tax money from BC Rail. Usually BC Rail provides communities a grant in lieu of taxes, but the provincial government hasn’t made a decision about this year’s payment scheme — or any payment for future years. John Ranta, president of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and mayor of Cache Creek, says BC Rail’s cash grants should be paid to municipalities by the same July 2 deadline taxpayers have to meet. "The financial treatment BC Rail is giving out is not reflective of the service they desire from the communities," says Ranta. "We’re quickly coming to the end of the year and we have an expectation that the BC government will address this issue in a timely fashion." Right now municipalities are preparing their provisional budgets for 1999, which councils are directed to prepare on or before Nov. 30. Spending initiatives such as commercial and industrial grants and administrative costs, need to be identified in the provisional budgets. This becomes difficult for municipalities. They have to cover BC Rail’s expected payment until it comes in, which for some towns means a bank loan and interest charges. West-Vancouver, Garibaldi MLA, Ted Nebbeling, acknowledges the issue is controversial and says that despite promises, every year payments are delayed. "Every year it’s a drag race. A waiting game for districts who rely on this income," said Nebbeling. "Crown corporations can’t be penalized, and they continue to give the attitude that they will pay when they’re ready. ‘You’ll get it one day, if you don’t like the offer, tough luck.’ This is the attitude we’re having to fight. Nobody has been paid, and as a consequence we have communities who are having to borrow money. "In the end they’re going to pay, but it’s always the people who depend on it the most who lose and suffer," he says. "The government’s role is not supposed to be this way, especially when they play like this." Last year Whistler received a $29,000 grant in lieu of taxes from BC Rail. The criteria for this year’s grant has not been defined. However, for many municipalities, including Pemberton, the BC Rail grant makes up a sizeable portion of their annual budget.