By Andru McCracken

On September 8, Valemount Council On September 8, Valemount Council decided on Permissive Tax Exemptions for properties (buildings and land) owned by local non-profits – and for some, the exemption radically dropped.

Instead of going with potential tax exemptions laid out by staff – 100, 75, 50 or 25% – Council first floated the idea of a 0% exemption, but ultimately settled on 10% for all.

Last year, the Legion received a 75 per cent exemption, the Lions and Curling Club 50% exemptions, and no exemption for VARDA and VARS (see table).

Council began by considering the exemption for each group individually, and the first to be considered was the Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association. Mayor Owen Torgerson left the room because he is a voting member on the board and was in a conflict of interest.

Councillor Donnie MacLean took over as chair and sought a motion.

Councillor Hollie Blanchette started with a zero percent exemption.

“Unfortunately I cannot ask for money from people who have not had any for months and months and months on end, I can’t ask homeowners who are trying to pay all their bills to help chip in for things. I’m hoping there are grants these facilities can access,” she said.

The motion wasn’t seconded by Councilor Pete Pearson, the only other councillor able to.

Pearson proffered a 25% exemption, but Blanchette wouldn’t second that either.

“We’ve got businesses that are just reopening, just rehiring staff, staff are just starting to work and the public are just starting back to work – if they are working,” said Blanchette.

Pearson was taken aback.

“This really changes everything from information we were given,” said Pearson, before seconding it apprehensively.

“I agree [about the hardship placed on local business], […] but this could be a death knell for an organization if they don’t get a reduction in property taxes, because they are hurting as well.”

Blanchette asked staff if they could defer the decision for a year.

“Technically no,” said Chief Administrative Officer Wayne Robinson.

“Keep in mind that the property tax is affecting the property classes they represent.”

He gave the example of VARDA. An exemption to VARDA would only affect other commercial properties.

“Commercial are the ones who are shut down,” said Blanchette.

Council decided to deal with all of the organizations at once and bring back the mayor to help with the decision making.

Robinson explained by deciding the exemption for all nonprofits at the same time, councillors (even voting members on boards) were no longer in conflict.

Blanchette again moved the 10% exemption. This time MacLean seconded it.

“10% is fair. I’m pretty sure there are grants these organizations can apply for,” said Blanchette.

They amended the motion to specify that it was for one year only.

The motion passed as amended, Pearson didn’t vote in the affirmative, but didn’t record his vote as opposed either.

Churches and seniors facilities are 100% tax exempt regardless of council’s feelings about it, as set out in the Community Charter.