The Village of Queen Charlotte is not the only municipal government on Haida Gwaii to recommend no increase in municipal taxes due to COVID-19.
Since the Village of Queen Charlotte council recommended at their regular meeting on April 6 that there should be no increase in municipal taxes collected in 2020, the villages of Masset and Port Clements have followed suit.
At its regular meeting on May 11, the Village of Masset council approved a budget that entails no change to property tax rates for 2020.
The draft budget had received first, second and third readings at the regular meeting on April 27.
Village of Masset chief administrative officer Trevor Jarvis told the Observer the village would be dipping into its airport reserves to make up some of the shortfall as a result.
“How much that shortfall is going to be is a bit of a guessing game at this point,” Jarvis said, adding the village currently estimates about $277,000 will be pulled from the reserves.
He said the village would also be amending the tax scheme to reduce late payment penalties or at least spread them out.
“Instead of being a 10 per cent penalty on July 1, it will be reduced to 1 per cent and deferred to October 1,” he said.
In response to COVID-19, the B.C. government had already postponed late payment penalties for reduced school tax rates for businesses to October 1.
“We have a large residential tax base … we felt the residential tax base should have some opportunity for some relief,” Jarvis said.
At the Village of Port Clements regular meeting on May 4, council adopted its financial plan bylaw for the years 2020 to 2024.
Village of Port Clements Mayor Doug Daugert said “the most notable thing is that we held property taxes, residential taxes at no increase for this year and we have decreased business taxes by 30 per cent” for the light industry and business property classes.
Collection of total taxes for municipal operations went down by 12.8 per cent.
A report to council about the bylaw said there had been a significant reduction in collected revenues from municipal services due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, amounting to a $41,697 loss in revenue.
“Reserves are being utilized to make up for the fall in municipal tax collection and revenues in order to ensure the municipality’s reduced operational budget,” the report said.
During the meeting, Daugert said the business tax decrease was necessary because a town with no businesses would be “difficult to live in.”
“We realize businesses in town are having a really hard time,” he said.
Village of Port Clements chief administrative officer Ruby Decock noted that due to the ongoing pandemic, Ministerial Order No. M083, made on March 26 under the Emergency Program Act, created an exception to open meeting requirements and any relevant procedure bylaws.
The order permits local governments to limit required public participation and to conduct all or part of a meeting “by means of electronic or other communication facilities.”
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