Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Prince Rupert will start to collect property taxes from non-profits

This comes for the September 7th Northern View

By Alan S. Hale - The Northern View
Published: September 07, 2012 4:00 PM 
Updated: September 07, 2012 9:19 PM
Community organizations that are used to not having to pay property taxes are going start feeling the pinch next year. The city council has decided to begin rolling back property tax exemptions by 40 percent over two years starting in 2013.

Mayor Jack Mussallem suggested the idea saying it was another way to decrease city spending in order to address public complaints about the City’s tax rates.

“By the end of [2014] we’ll still have a property tax exemption but it will only apply to 60 percent [of what they would owe without an exemption]. So each year we are creating a 20 percent allowance to ease the overall taxation in the community,” says Mussallem.

The reason for rolling it back over two years is to ease the community organizations into making up the difference with donations from the community at large.

Only the exemptions given to churches, schools and the largely city-owned properties known as the “Big Six”  (civic centre, library, golf course/racquet centre, museum, Lester Centre, visitors centre, tourism board) will be spared from the rollback. While the City is prevented from taxing the church buildings because of the community charter, the rollback will affect the exemption they are given on their parking lots.

The tax exemptions that will be affected add up to being under $100,000, which means in 2013 the city well be getting $20,000 in new tax money and $40,000 the next year.

Since it was elected, this City council has been hard on Prince Rupert community organizations; it has also frozen all community enhancement grants at their current levels, and cut others. They’ve done all of this and saved very little money.

While getting $40,000 in new taxes is much more money than the $3,000 council saved by cutting some of the community enhancement grants, $40,000 still only represents a 0.2 percent increase in Prince Rupert’s property tax income.

Property tax exemptions have been a longstanding way for the City to help worthy organizations without actually spending any money.

Some of the organizations affected are important pillars of the community such as the Friendship House, which in 2014 will have to find a way to pay $7,530 that it normally doesn’t have to worry about.  The North Coast Transition Society, the salmon hatchery, the senior’s centre, Moose lodge, and aboriginal justice society will all have to come up with the money as well.

Meanwhile, the City is spending $4.18-million on the 45 members of city staff that make over $75,000 a year.

I  am very concerned about this because of the sort of precedence it sets.  As someone that served a term as the director responsible for a lot of properties for a non-profit, if they were all assessed taxes, even some of the taxes, it would become unsustainable and much higher fees would have to be charged for the youth to enroll in the program.

I get that Prince Rupert is between a rock and a hard place, but many of the directions they are looking at are not ones that in the long term make sense.   They have already expressed concern they can not raise the property taxes of the port.

Prince Rupert is also considering selling the municipal golf course to raise the funds needed to pay for the new emergency service building.

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