Kalein Hospice is in and local churches are out after council passed the first three readings of the permissive tax exemption bylaw were passed at a city council meeting earlier this month.
The Community Charter provides municipalities with authority to exempt certain lands and/or improvements from municipal property taxation.
The City of Nelson has its own criteria such as the organizations must be non-profit and provide needed social and community services to residents or provide an arts, cultural or recreational activities of benefit to the community.
Applicants must also demonstrate the ability of the organization to raise their own revenues.
The bylaw was amended by council to mirror last year’s bylaw with the inclusion of Kalein and the exception of the churches.
Many of the churches had made applications for exemptions for amounts less than $1,000.
“It’s not that I don’t want the churches added in the amended motion,” said councillor Paula Kiss who voted in favour of the amended motion. “Churches are actually already included. They are statutorily exempt. They don’t pay taxes.”
According to Kiss, the churches were asking the City to further exempt their peripheral properties such as parking lots, that aren’t already exempt.
Kiss found herself questioning whether the requests fit the criteria from council for permissive tax exemption.
“If we are giving a permissive tax exemption that sends a message that property owner is doing something that we think enhances Nelson and is a parking lot outside of a church enhancing Nelson, my thought was no,” she said.
Another issue the exemption requests from the churches presented was around the administrative costs presented with processing an application for an amount under $1,000.
“Some of the permissive tax exemption requests were for such a small amount that I literally looked at the paper work and the time we were spending on it and I said to myself, ‘this request literally isn’t worth the paper it is printed on.’”
Kiss said she would prefer to see staff work with the organizations and put them in touch with community grants that would give them more and with less administrative costs for the city and the applicant.
While Mayor John Dooley agreed with Kiss’s statement around the administrative cost, he asked to be recorded as opposed during the vote.
“I would have liked to have seen if we are going to change direction here, because we are looking at it again in a year, that we include the churches,” said Dooley. “It just didn’t add up for me to add the Kalein Hospice and take out the churches.”
Dooley, along with councillor Bob Adams had voted in favour of an amendment to include the churches and include the Kalein Hospice Society until the following year, but the amendment was defeated.
While there was a lot of debate at the council meeting in addition to the presentations by the organizations in July, Dooley said it is good to have the conversation.
“Councillor Kiss made a fair statement tonight, you know you have exemptions that are $300 and honest to God, the paperwork is worth more than that,” said Dooley. “By the time we pay our accounting department to deal with those things, it doesn’t make much sense for us or the people applying for it when they sit down and look at it.”
The vote for the final reading of the permissive tax exemption bylaws will be at the November 5 meeting.