Tax relief at QC council

  • Oct. 20, 2006 8:00 p.m.

Queen Charlotte property owners will be taking on an extra $4,454 municipal tax burden when a new bylaw outlining tax-exempt properties is adopted later this month.
Queen Charlotte Council gave first, second and third reading to a permissive tax exemption bylaw at its October 16 meeting and will schedule a special meeting to adopt the bylaw by the end of this month.
Council is proposing four property owners be relieved of the tax burden for 2007: The Charlotte Thrift Shop Society, The Queen Charlotte Heritage Housing Society, the Royal Canadian Legion and the Queen Charlotte Youth Education Society (The Living and Learning School).
Other properties, like churches, public schools, hospitals, federal, provincial and municipal land are statutorily tax-exempt.
The Community Club and the QCC Volunteer Fire Prevention Society will also be given tax exempt-status with this bylaw, but these are services that are typically run and owned by a municipality, and would therefore automatically be tax exempt. `Part of the land the Catholic Church is on was also given tax-exempt status. The church doesn’t own the property, but rents it, so that’s why the building isn’t automatically tax exempt.
Before the Oct. 16 meeting, councillors debated how to determine whether a property owner should be given tax exempt status and came up with three criteria.
They should be volunteer organizations with non-profit status, be valuable to the community as whole and be in financial need, said Mayor Carol Kulesha.
“We considered the broad principle of what is the community benefit. How much poorer would the community be if the organization failed,” said Councillor Greg Martin.
All organizations that requested a permissive tax exemption were asked to provide proof of non-profit status and financial statements.
Debate was raised about whether the Living and Learning School should be considered.
Councillor Kris Olsen said the group should pay their taxes. He said parents choose to use a private school instead of the public system, which takes funds away from the public system.
Councillor Martin agreed that the organization is wide of the criteria, but because of the huge amount of debt they’ve just undertaken, he is concerned for their financial status. He suggested they receive one year of tax-exempt status.
Council wanted to clarify that the Heritage Housing Society is seeking tax exemptions on the empty lots where it will build the assisted living units, not on the land where their apartment building is.
Councillor Gladys Noddin said council should give organizations seeking tax exempt status a heads up that financial statements will be required each year.
This was the village’s first attempt at tackling this topic, so staff did some extra research to assess how other communities handle the topic.
In Masset, the village does not give permissive tax exemptions to any one, but they do offer grants-in-lieu of the municipal portion of the tax.
Inclusion on a tax exemption bylaw means a property owner is clear of all taxes collected by the municipality including school, hospital, regional district and other taxes.
Kim Mushynsky at the Masset Village office said property taxes usually break down roughly with 60-percent going to the municipality and 40-percent going to the other sources.
Queen Charlotte’s financial officer Debra Uliana told council she could not estimate what the school, hospital and other taxes would be, so only included the municipal portion of the tax exemption in the ad which appears in the Observer.