City council endorsed city property tax exemptions to 87 community groups.

Council doles out tax breaks to several Campbell River groups

More than 87 community groups and organizations are set to receive tax breaks in 2018 as council endorsed $475,955 worth of city tax exemptions at its Monday meeting.

Not all of council, however, was in agreement with who should receive the assistance which is part of the city’s annual Permissive Tax Exemption program aimed at helping non-profit organizations with their ongoing operations.

While the majority of the benefactors are those who have held tax exemptions for several years, there were three new applicants for 2018 and it was one of those – Storey Creek Golf and Recreation Society golf course – that Mayor Andy Adams attempted to deny a grant to, barring more information.

Adams said he was concerned with the recommendation of the city’s Community Partnership Committee – which is tasked with reviewing applications for the tax breaks – to give the golf course a 100 per cent permissive tax exemption out of fear of giving one business a leg up on another.

“Did the Community Partnership Committee look at other communities where there are multiple golf courses but there are public golf courses in those communities?” Adams wanted to know. “I would want to see more information. I am concerned about the competitive nature between the different recreational businesses.”

Poppy Steele, chair of the Community Partnership Committee, said that ultimately the decision was made to grant the tax break to Storey Creek for a number of reasons.

“We struggled with it, on our committee. Our reasoning is that Storey Creek provides a lot of junior and senior programs at deeply discounted rates to make it more affordable for those sectors of the public to use,” Steele said. “They also host a tremendous number of charity tournaments. When they host those charity tournaments that’s lost revenue for them.”

Adams said while he could appreciate that reasoning he still wasn’t convinced.

“My understanding with the charity golf tournaments, they do pay a booking fee for the course for those charity tournaments and they do have phenomenal junior programs and kudos to them but that is a business decision,” Adams said, adding his intention wasn’t to completely disregard Storey Creek for the tax exemption but rather to glean further information first as to what other communities do that have multiple golf courses doing business. “I think that would be due diligence to find out about other courses on the Island as there is a competitive nature in providing services, albeit that we only have one golf course this season.”

The rest of council, however, disagreed with Adams and turned down his motion to remove Storey Creek from this year’s list of tax exemptions.

Coun. Larry Samson said he would like to see staff report back as soon as possible on how other communities treat their golf courses when it comes to permissive tax exemptions, as did Coun. Ron Kerr who said it wouldn’t do any harm to approve the tax break for one year while Storey Creek is the only golf course operating but then possibly reconsider the following year.

“I don’t feel I could agree with completely removing it. More information possibly,” Kerr said. “I mean, this is for this year and it will be reviewed again next year and it may be a completely different competitive conclusion next year.”

In the end, along with Storey Creek, new applicant the Fraternal Order of Eagles 3097 also received a 100 per cent permissive tax exemption because of its “significant community benefit through the issuance of scholarships, bursaries and donations to local groups and charities,” according to a report submitted by Steele and Mary Storry, vice-chair of the Community Partnership Committee, to council.

Not all of the new applicants were granted their ask, however. while NIEFS’ application for a property tax break was denied because the operation is exclusively funded by the province of B.C. through an operating grant that represents almost 100 per cent of its budget, which runs contrary to the criteria laid out in council’s policy for property tax relief.

In order to qualify, the group must be a not-for-profit or a charitable or philanthropic organization that benefits the community either through: recreation, providing programs that benefit youth, seniors or other special needs groups, preserving heritage important to the community, preserving an environmentally significant area, offering cultural or educational programs, or offering services to the public in partnership with the city.

Groups that receive permissive tax exemptions annually include: the SPCA, Campbell River and District Association for Community Living, Campbell River and District Food Bank Society, North Island Transition Society, Campbell River Family Services, Campbell River Head Injury Support Society, Campbell River Hospice Society, Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North (Restore), John Howard Society and the Royal Canadian Legion among several others.

The lengthy list of tax exemptions was given first and second reading by council on Monday, with third reading expected on Oct.10, followed by adoption at the Oct.25 council meeting.

kristend@campbellrivermirror.com

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