Tax exemptions scrutinized

Councillor Denise Reimer wants to see a change in how the city grants tax exemptions.

Councillor Denise Reimer wants to see a change in how the city grants tax exemptions.

Every year, Salmon Arm council grants municipal tax exemptions totalling more than half a million dollars to local organizations.

Combined with tax exemptions that the city collects for other levels of government, the total amounts to more than $1 million.

When council was considering adding additional organizations that have applied for an exemption at the Oct. 27 meeting, Reimer said she thinks council needs to come up with another formula.

“We exempt the municipal portion but we still have to pay to other agencies,” she said, referring to taxes the city collects for such agencies including the school district, the regional district, the regional hospital and the regional library.

In the 2015 budget, churches – or properties used for public worship – are getting about $150,000 in tax exemptions; properties used for charitable purposes such as those owned by Good Samaritan Canada and the Salmar Community Association are receiving a total of about $600,000 in exemptions; properties used for senior services, such as the Seniors Fifth Avenue Activity Centre, are getting $30,000; and properties used for recreation purposes,  such as the Shuswap Recreation Society and the Salmon Arm Curling Club, are getting a total of $450,000 in permissive tax exemptions.

She added that it’s not a question of the worth of the organizations receiving the exemptions.

“We all know these groups provide valuable services to our community,” she said.

However, she sees it as the city absorbing the loss for the other agencies that collect taxes, thereby putting an extra burden on city taxpayers.

“I really believe as a city we shouldn’t be held responsible for those other agencies (such as the school district, etc.)… If there was a way to separate out those, and if those organizations needed those exemptions, they could apply to the different agencies to have that exempted.

“I see it as somewhat of a downloading onto us; we’re taking the responsibility but we don’t have an option whether or not to.”

Coun. Alan Harrison responded: “You’re talking about legislation. I don’t disagree with you there, but how are we going to do that?”

Reimer said her suggestion would be able to take it to the Union of BC Municipalities to refer it on.

Added Mayor Nancy Cooper: “It was talked about at UBCM several times, there’s only one taxpayer. I’m just throwing that out there.”


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