Tax exemption debate continues in Parksville

Parksville council has often discussed the future of their permissive taxation program in the context of fiscal constraints and austerity, but have unanimously agreed to update and keep it intact.

Introducing the item at their Nov. 19 town hall-style meeting, mayor Chris Burger said the discussion should be about the policy in general, not about whether specific groups should or shouldn’t be included.

However, most of the half dozen people who spoke at the meeting pointed to specific groups.

At at previous meeting, council had passed almost $245,000 in property tax exemptions for 2013 for 23 community and not-for-profit organizations, ranging from churches and senior care facilities to the Society of Organized Services, cadets and the lawn bowling club.

The exemptions are equivalent to roughly 2.5 percent of the city’s annual budget and are meant to support organizations that add services and value to the community.

Burger pointed out the city is also the tax collector for other organizations like the regional district and school board, so a $1 city exemption is actually a $2 benefit to the organization.

Two key proposed changes in the staff report include requiring a demonstration of financial need and introducing the possibility of granting a partial exemption, rather than the current all or nothing.

Audience members speaking unofficially for some of the organizations in question said they would be happy to provide more financial information.

Using Victoria’s program as a model they will also look at various ways to cap the cost of the program.

“We lowly taxpayers are getting money pulled from our pockets from every direction,” said Peter Simkin from the audience at the town hall-style meeting, cautioning the city to consider all spending decisions carefully.

People spoke in defence of the exemptions program, pointing out the services those organizations provide with volunteer labour cost the city a tiny portion of what it would cost their unionized staff to provide. Staff will return a report on option to council in the future.


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