Council pondered making changes to the permissive tax exemptions bylaw Monday, but decided that it would continue on a year by year basis.
Everyone supported continuing the exemptions in the way that they have been each year, with each organization filling an application each year. Coun. Kathy Moore suggested it would make sense to approve certain exemptions for a few years at a time.
Moore said her timing is always poor at bringing the issue up.
“I bring this up and say that each year this process is time consuming for the volunteer groups and time consuming for the staff to review it,” Moore said. “Under the legislation you can grant an exemption for up to ten years, and I’d like to see us give a break to some of these volunteer groups and our staff and be able to grant these exemptions for longer, maybe not ten years, but maybe three.”
Some members of council worried that the exemptions could then be misused or carry over to newer organizations that come up.
Moore countered that there are plenty of checks and balances in the city’s policy that detail any issues that could arise.
“If they stop using it for the purpose that allows them to have exemption it fails,” she said. “I’d really like to have staff respond to us on the benefits and detriments of extending this to three or five years, whatever they recommend.”
Moore thought that it might work for next year around this time.
Mayor Greg Granstrom worried that a motion like that could tie the hands of future councils, which he was not in favour of.
“Councils change every three years and I don’t know if council wants to be locked into a longer timeframe,” Granstrom said. “The amount of effort required for staff to process is quite minimal. There is effort involved for the organizations that want the tax exemption, no question there’s effort there, and that effort is rewarded with the tax exemption should council wish to (grant it). I think it’s important to recognize that times change and not every council is of the same mind as the council prior.”
Moore suggested there could be a restriction that cuts off the exemption with each new council.
“You could set any kind of criteria on it that you wanted, but we’re seeing these exact same applications for years on end, each time people are filling it again, it just seems a little bit unnecessary to me, we could be a little more efficient with our time.
The motion to approve the exemptions went through without a hitch.
Moore’s motion to have staff prepare a report on the benefits and detriments on granting tax exemptions for multiple years wasn’t so smooth, and failed to pass a vote.
“I just wonder what’s more efficient having staff do a report on having exemptions for a longer period of time or just to have them apply for the permissive tax exemption,” Granstrom wondered.
In the end, exemptions will stay the same, year by year basis.