By Lorne Eckersley
With residential and business property tax notices set to arrive in residential and mailboxes starting on May 22, Town of Creston staff are encouraging payments not be made in person.
“The health and safety of our residents and staff remains a priority for the Town of Creston”, Mike Moore, chief administrative officer, said on Friday. “We are committed to providing our taxpayers with solutions that ensure that they do not need to physically visit Town Hall in order to meet payment deadlines. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to think of new ways to continue to provide service excellence to our citizens, without the in-person interaction that many are used to”.
There will be no extension to the July 2 payment deadline for residential properties, but taxes for business, light industry and recreation/non-profit class properties can be paid up until September 30th without penalty. Those dates follow provincial recommendations, director of finance and corporate services Steffan Klassen said.
“The Town will be including an additional informational flyer with the property tax notices which will provide details on the various payment methods and instructions on how to view your tax account online,” he said. “For residential taxpayers, there is also information on how to claim a Home Owner’s Grant that reduces property taxes and can be claimed if the property is your principal residence. The Home Owner’s Grant application must be filled out each year and can be completed online or physically submitted to Town Hall (via mail or the secure drop box located at street level on 10th Avenue North).”
Payment methods include cheques (post-dated cheques are accepted), online through your banking institution, in person at your local bank or credit union, e-transfer, and credit card (note that third-party fees apply for credit card payments).
“We know that the changes in this process and payment methods will be unfamiliar to many who are accustomed to coming in to see us at Town Hall”, Klassen added. “Above all, we want our citizens to know that we are here to help. If you need assistance with setting up your tax account online, have questions about claiming your Home Owner’s Grant, or how to set up any of the payment options, please reach out to us by calling our office 250-428-2214 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org”.
Continued on A7
In other Town of Creston news:
• Town Council learned at its regular meeting, held by videoconference, that there are no major changes required to its 2020 budget, despite challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Moore said that there is a potential risk of about $75,000 in permits being lost or delayed and that there have been some unanticipated costs, like having to set up an emergency operations centre. But the province is covering most of the EOC costs and other savings are to be expected.
Budgeted funds for Association of Kootenay-Boundary Local Governments annual conference were saved with its cancellation, and other travel and accommodation expenses will be reduced by necessity. The annual Union of BC Municipalities convention has also been cancelled.
“There could be another $130,000 in savings if some capital projects can’t proceed, but there will be other minor costs, like the installation of plexiglass barriers,” Moore said. “But we aren’t really facing any major news costs.”
Klassen also outlined some local business tax savings that have been instituted by the Province, which could run as high as $28,000 for a large local business.
“The move is intended to help businesses that have no or little revenues at this time,” he said.
A lengthy discussion took place over how property tax payments could be made, with some councillors expressing concern that forcing all residents to pay without visiting Town Hall would be a problem.
“Part of our job is customer service,” Couns. Karen Unruh said. “I have a problem if we are moving away from that.”
“What we really want is just to open up options that keep everyone safe,” Mayor Ron Toyota said.
“Town Hall will be open but with some restrictions, like one person coming into the building at a time,” Moore added. “Kelowna, by comparison, has no intention of opening its town hall for property tax season.”
Klassen said that traditionally the number of residents paying property taxes in person is high.
“We really want to reduce the numbers of people coming in. There are already alternatives in place and we need to get the word out about them—it’s all about public education.”
A new sculpture will be installed in front of Town Hall soon, thanks to the efforts of the Creston Valley Public Art Connection. The sculpture was made by Slocan Valley artist Rabi’a, who also created a piece located at Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery.
Ross Beddoes, director of development services, informed Council that the former Greyhound building has been purchased for use as a craft brewery and tasting room.
“I think it’s a fabulous undertaking and I am surprised it hasn’t happened already—most small communities have one,” he said.
When the issue of competition with Columbia Brewery was brought up, Beddoes said that it isn’t the Town’s role to protect existing businesses from competition.
“The owners say that Columbia Brewing products will be on tap as well,” Couns. Arnold de Boon added.
• A request by Elkford’s town council for support in deferring the annual sale of properties whose taxes are in arrears did not receive support.
“This makes no sense to me at all to even consider it,” Couns. Jim Elford said.
Council declined a request for funding from the Horse Association of Central Kootenay for its Youth Horse Camps.
Applications for Columbia Basin Trust Community Initiative Program grants will be discussed at a May 26th Committee of the Whole meeting.