A new policy adopted by Creston town council earlier this year means that few non-profit organizations will be fully exempt from paying municipal property taxes.
Council agreed last spring to cap the total exemptions at 1.75 per cent of the total property tax paid by town residents. This year, the first of a three-year bylaw cycle, a committee of staff and Couns. Judy Gadicke and Scott Veitch met to assess the applications and recommend an exemption list to council.
Two applicants, Friends of the Ingham Arts and Culture Centre and Kootenay Employment Centre, were shut out completely.
“The Ingham centre is a wonderful concept that we support, but it isn’t in operation, so it doesn’t meet the criteria,” said town finance director Steffan Klassen. “KES’s needs didn’t outweigh the needs of the other applicants.”
Most applicants are churches, which have statutory exemptions for buildings of worship, but the balance of building and property exemptions has been reduced to 95 per cent for most.
Some applicants that operate businesses that compete with private enterprises saw their exemptions set at 60 per cent.
Town policy for permissive exemptions says organizations that apply must:
•provide a service consistent with one of the objectives of the town’s strategic plan’s corporate strategic priorities or corporate advocacy priorities;
•be inclusive of the community;
•help the community in a distinguishable manner;
•be entirely not-for-profit;
•exist and be completely functional and operational at the time the application is made;
•provide a discernible benefit to the community; and
•not receive any other major source of funding (for example, from another level of government).
Exceptions to organizations receiving 95 per cent exemptions are Kootenai Community Centre Society properties on Eighth Avenue South, Northwest Boulevard and Cook Street, Creston Trinity Housing Society on 10th Avenue North, and the Creston Judo Club.
KCCS representative Amanda Cannon, who manages New Life Furniture and Recycling, told council at the Oct. 8 meeting that deceasing exemptions on the society’s properties will result in cuts or restrictions to services provided by the society.
Klassen said the society’s day care and recycling businesses provide valuable services to the community, but also compete with private sector businesses.
When Cannon pointed out that the recycling operation should be compared to Gleaners, Klassen explained that Gleaners gets an exemption on buildings only, which equates to a similar proportionate tax bill as the one KCCS will receive.
An unexpected glitch in council’s intention to hold exemptions to 1.75 per cent of the total property tax values came when Klassen learned that the previous exemption provided to Creston Valley Public Library by BC Assessment Authority is being removed after a reinterpretation of the building’s ownership status.
“We believe it has been council’s contention all along that the library should be exempt from property taxation so the committee did not include its portion in the 1.75 per cent,” Klassen said.
Three readings of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 tax exemption bylaw were passed and a vote to enact the bylaw will be held on Oct. 22. Once the bylaw is passed, new exemption applications in the next three years would only be considered if existing properties have their exemptions changed or removed, or if the council of the day choose to increase the 1.75 per cent cap.