|Councillor Joy Thorkelson called for
more fairness in how the City approaches
the Community Grants and Property Tax
And while you wouldn't know it from the City's own Post Council Session Community Update from their website, or from some of the local media coverage of the topic, Council members became quite engaged in the discussion on Monday when it comes to the Community Grant and Tax Exemption process and how the City approaches it.
The review of the topic began with a presentation from Corinne Bomben, the City's Chief Financial Officer, who offered up some background on the issue and details of the impact on the city's estimates for the year.
Ms. Bomben's report outlined that two organizations have been added to the list of those that have applied for the Property Tax exemptions. If approved, the Navy League Prince Rupert Branch and the Royal Canadian Legion will be added to the list for 2017.
While the Prince Rupert Marine Rescue Society, Prince Rupert Search and Rescue Society, Prince Rupert Amateur Radio Club and a Heritage property at Number 1 Pacific Place will be taken off the list.
The City's CFO noted that the net result would be an additional exemption of approximately 1,600 dollars which is above the estimates previously provided for 2017.
The total estimated exemption for 2017 was estimated to be at $314,586.
It was Councillor Thorkelson who carried the torch for fairness on Monday, reinforcing many points she has made in past years when it comes to the topic, noting that the City makes Community Grant applicants go through a stringent application process, when it comes to the Property Tax Enhancement Grants, she viewed those applicants as getting a bit of a free ride year after year.
"I find it quite unfair that somebody applies for a Community Grant and doesn't get a grant, because its under the community grant schedule of the city and we have an idea about how much we want to spend under that schedule. And then we come up with this tax exemption policy, where we don't apply the same kind of rigour to this and we don't consider it as though it were a Community Enhancement Grant, and I think it the same as a Community Enhancement Grant."
Councillor Mirau said that he understood her desire for fairness but observed that he believed that the process used was created by the Province and not something the City had not developed the criteria.
Councillor Thorkelson disagreed with that interpretation, calling on some past council years where the City had cut the exemption rates, reinforcing here concerns that those who own property are receiving an easier path through the property tax exemptions, than those that apply on the Community Grant side of the process.
The Mayor and Councillor Thorkelson also exchanged some differing opinions on how the current process works, with Councillor Thorkelson observing that other communities don't use the same approach as Prince Rupert, adding that some of those communities that she had reviewed did not offer any kind of property tax exemption breaks.
"Your worship I don't mean to be argumentative, but other cities don't do this at all, it's not a requirement that you must do it, it is an option that you can do it, that's why they have to apply and that we have to add them to the rolls. Churches and Schools, yes those are statutory we have to give them breaks, we don't have to give anyone else a break"
Councillor Joy Thorkelson highlighting her concerns over how the city approaches the issue of Property Tax Exemptions.
She stressed that she wasn't opposed to any of the groups on the list that were looking for exemptions, but that she wanted to see all applicants in both categories handled in an equal fashion. She also offered up the idea of providing for half grant exemptions on the property side of the process, in order to provide other worthy organizations with the funding that they require through the Community Grant process.
Councillors Niesh and Cunningham shared some of her concerns on the theme, with Councillor Niesh calling attention to one current property listed on the Exemption list that has fallen into some disrepair and hasn't actually been used for a number of years.
For his part Councillor Cunningham cautioned about any changes that may impact on the city's service clubs and organizations, stating to Council that he did not want to see anything in place that would have and adverse impact on those groups.
To bring the discussion to an end, Councillor Randhawa put forward the motion to move forward with the requests under discussion, but that Council consider further review the process in 2017 that they use for both Grants and Exemptions.
The full report to Council, including the list of those properties on the Tax Exemption list for 2017 can be found in the City's Agenda Package on Page 41.
You can review the full discussion from the City's Video Archive, starting at the seventeen minute mark.
A larger overview of the discussion and more items of interest from Monday's Council Session can be found on our Council Timeline feature.
Further items of note from City Council can also be reviewed on City Council Archive page.