Councillor Donna Macdonald said the Nelson city council didn't fully understand the ramification of their decision.

Nelson churches cry foul over tax charge

Nelson city council revised its decision on the permissive tax exemption for local churches after presentations at Monday's meeting.

Concerns around potential discrimination were echoed as pastor Ken Keber of Bethel Christian Centre and Lorne Westnedge of the First Baptist Church addressed council at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting.

“I read the paper and saw everyone else got an exemption basically except the churches. That smacked me in the face,” said Keber. “I don’t want to be suspicious, but it does make me wonder.”

At a council meeting this month the city passed the first three readings of permissive tax exemption bylaws.

Council voted to exclude the churches, who asked for exemptions in amounts less than $1,000, but to include the Kalein Hospice Society.

Despite appearances, councillor Donna Macdonald, who chaired Monday’s meeting, insisted council’s decision had nothing to do with the groups being churches.

“Certainly this was not an anti-religious gesture,” she said. “It just so happened it was the churches because the vast majority of their properties are exempt under statute and provincial legislation. We have no control over that.”

Macdonald said council was unaware that when they voted to remove the exemption from the churches there would be a large impact.

“It’s not just the $200 or $300 of municipal taxes, but it multiplies and becomes a more substantial sum and I don’t think we were all clearly aware of that,” she said.

Keber said once municipal, school and regional taxes were tallied, Bethel Christian Centre would need to pay a total of $3,400.

“Being a charity, budgets are very tight and we’ve been using savings as we have been operating a bit in the red for the last few years,” said Keber.

“It’s been getting a bit better, but this immediately puts on us a new burden. We are trying to be self-sufficient and suddenly we have to come up with a few thousand dollars more.”

In Westnedge’s presentation to council, he questioned why the parking lots of the Granite Pointe Golf Course and the Nelson and Area Rod and Gun Club would be exempt and not the churches.

“I understand the City’s predicament with lack of funds and so on,” he said. “My concern was the lack of consultation. This certainly was a change in policy and it is precedent setting.”

Westnedge said he was unaware of any other community in the province that has actually instituted a similar bylaw.

While some may have attempted to do the same, he said they backed away from the idea — as council ultimately did Monday.

In the special council meeting following the committee of the whole meeting, council rescinded third reading of the bylaw passed this month and amended it to include the churches at last year’s amounts and to reduce Kalein Hospice’s exemption from 100 per cent to 50 per cent.

Mayor John Dooley — who joined the meeting by phone from Vancouver — suggested that workshops be included in next year’s consultation process.

“We’re going to review this whole process over the next year,” said Macdonald. “It seemed a bit of an unfair hardship to remove the churches for this year on such short notice.

“It may be that we will make the same decision again that these smaller requests may not be considered. We don’t know what the outcome of the process will be, but I think it’s only fair to put them back in until we’ve had a chance to put this through.”

 

 

Just Posted

Avalanche Canada issues special public warning

Very weak layer buried under recent snow a cause for concern

KBRH on watch for bed bugs after two recent cases

Spokesperson Mandy Lowery says there has not been a bed bug sighting at KBRH since Dec. 8

Coffee card donations return at Wait’s News

The program supplied over 200 cards last year

Trafalgar students build home for sanctuary horse

Grade 8 students collaborated on a project with a local farm sanctuary

Nelson won’t restrict parking amnesty to West Kootenay

So far, more than 800 people have responded with amnesty payments

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

Boeser has 2 points as Canucks ground Flyers 5-1

WATCH: Vancouver has little trouble with slumping Philly side

Man dies after falling from B.C. bridge

Intoxicated man climbed railing, lost his balance and fell into the water below

B.C. animation team the ‘heart’ of new ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

The animators, largely based in Vancouver, ultimately came up with a creative technique that is drawing praise

Light at the end of the tunnel for UN climate talks

Meeting in Katowice was meant to finalize how countries report their emissions of greenhouses gases

Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in at the 34th induction ceremony

Supreme Court affirms privacy rights for Canadians who share a computer

Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure

B.C. fire chief pleads with Ottawa for traumatic stress support

Campbell River fire chief Thomas Doherty presented concerns to federal government

21 detained before Paris protests as police deploy in force

There was a strong police presence outside the central Saint Lazare train station, where police in riot gear checked bags

Most Read