In 2022, the City of Nelson will give full or partial property tax exemptions to 24 non-profit organizations including 12 churches. At an Oct. 26 meeting, Nelson City Council reviewed and approved its new list.
Three new housing projects – 205 Hall St. (Nelson CARES’ Hall Street Place), 805 Nelson Ave. (Nelson CARES’ Lakeside Place) and 520 Falls St. (SHARE Housing’s Herridge Place) – were not given exemptions even though they would appear to be eligible under city policy because they are run by non-profits.
The Nelson CARES properties will not be given an exemption because they will already be taxed at a significantly reduced assessed value applied by BC Assessment because the rents will be below market rates.
As for Herridge Place, it is owned by BC Housing and a tax exemption does not apply to a provincial corporation.
“People look at those buildings and say, well that will be good for the tax base,” said Mayor John Dooley at the meeting. “But they are valued at a lower rate and we still have to supply all the services, police, fire, water, sewer, snow plowing, garbage. We are still on the same hook as we would be if it was market value.”
Who gets city tax exemptions?
The city gives full or partial exemptions to non-profit organizations that own land or buildings, or which operate in city buildings.
City policy states that exceptions may be given to groups that provide needed social and community services or provide arts, cultural or recreational activities that benefit city residents.
The policy says that such services must be available to all members of the community, not just to the group’s own membership. The city grants 10-year and four-year exemptions.The value of the exemptions
Council has set a cap on permissive tax exemptions at 0.5 per cent of the total tax levy for the city. For 2022 that portion would amount to $48,000.
But the exemptions approved for next year amount to much less than that — a total of $24,370.
Council discussed the possibility of allocating the difference to other ways of supporting affordable housing in the city.
List of Nelson’s exemptions
Granite Pointe Golf Club in the past has received three-year exemptions, but because the non-profit is in the process of selling off land council granted only a one-year exemption.
The following organizations have been given full tax exemptions from 2022 to 2024: Ascension Lutheran Church, Bethel Christian Centre, Cathedral of Mary Immaculate, Evangelical Covenant Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses of Nelson, Nelson United Church, St. Saviours Anglican Church, Kootenay Kids Society (312 Silica St.), Nelson CARES Society (816 Vernon St.), Nelson Kiwanis Projects Society, West Kootenay Women’s Association.
The following organizations have partial tax exemptions for 2022 to 2024: Nelson CARES Society (567 Ward St.), Kalein Hospice Society, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Canadian Red Cross, Kootenay Co-op Radio, Kootenay Kids Society (804 Stanley St.), Kootenay Christian Fellowship, Salvation Army.
For churches, the building and the land on which it sits are tax exempt by federal legislation, but the land surrounding the church is not. So these city exemptions apply to the church grounds.
The following organizations occupy city properties for which council has previously given 10-year or two-year exemptions, all expiring in 2024: Nelson and District Rod and Gun Club, Curling Club, Capitol Theatre, Touchstones Museum, and Nelson and District Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, Civic Theatre, Glacier Gymnastics, Nelson Youth Soccer, Nelson Christian School.
The amount of each exemption can be found at https://bit.ly/3nDOCLe.
Morrison questions tax exemptions for churches
Councillor Janice Morrison said she thinks churches should be taxed on all of their real estate, and that statutory exemptions should be abolished, fully or partially, by the provincial government.
“Church and state have been separate in this country for a long time, and churches do good work, but I don’t know that they are as relevant as they may have been at one time,” she said.
The government should re-evaluate this tax break for churches, she said.
“Some churches benefit the community more, but we should not be giving it to them because they are a church. It should be because … they have a much further reach than just their congregation.”
She said this discussion has come up at the council table periodically over the past 20 years and it has been flagged as an issue by several municipalities at Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conferences.
Morrison introduced a notice of motion to bring this up in a future council meeting, in which she will ask council to either write a letter to the province or bring a resolution to the UBCM, asking the government to review exemptions for churches.