Council restores some tax-exempt statuses

Trio of service groups persuades council to reverse decision that would have forced them to pay property taxes

Steve Kidd

Western News Staff

Council has once again backed away from denying service groups a municipal tax exemption, at least for three groups who appealed their ranking.

The groups — the Salvation Army food bank and thrift stores, the Senior’s Drop-in Centre and the South Okanagan Brain Injury Society — had their tax exemption renewed after making their case at the regular council meeting Monday.

But council didn’t stop at returning the groups to tax-exempt status. They also decided to take another look at the permissive tax exemption policy and the arbitrary cutoff of $100,000 in working capital. Mayor Garry Litke also wanted to see the timeframe extended.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing something about a three-year decision, so we don’t have to do this year after year. Once the exemption is made, if that is part of our policy, then people can relax about it for some period of time,” said Litke.

While the Salvation Army’s church remained exempt, with $600,000 in the bank, their food bank and thrift stores were originally denied the exemption.

“It looks like we have lots of money but we don’t,” said the Salvation Army’s Major Dave Sobool, noting the units are not for profit and provide a valuable source of food, clothing and household items to those needing assistance.

In the past several years, said Sobool, the cost of providing the services is increasing faster than the increase in income from donations and fundraising drives. Most of the income comes at Christmas, with about $400,000 a year going through the food bank.

“When the (fiscal) year end comes, if we don’t have $200,000 left in the bank, we’ve done a really bad job, because we won’t make it to the end of the year,” said Sobool, pointing out the thrift stores also operate at a loss.

Coun. Wes Hopkin wanted to know at what point Sobool thought service organizations should start paying taxes, with an eye to revisiting the city policy.

“There are costs to running the city that need to be borne by everyone. If non-profits don’t pay for some of the services they consume, then the rest of the city has to take up the slack,” said Hopkin.

“I am hoping we are putting a lot more in than we are taking out,” said Sobool, pointing out that if the operation were small enough to run out of their church, the city wouldn’t be asking for the tax. It’s a matter of the scale of the operation, he explained.

“We are only bigger than that because the demand is bigger. We don’t want the demand to be bigger, you don’t want the demand to be bigger, but there is a reality in life that food banks are a growing need in our community,” said Sobool.

Don Wilson, representing the South Main Drop-In Centre, pointed out that many cities fund and run their own seniors’ centres, while in Penticton their non-profit group handles that, in a building built on city-owned land leased to them for $1 a year.

“If we weren’t providing these services, the cost to the community would probably be significantly more than the taxes,” said Patti MacAhonic executive director of SOSBIS. Her sentiments were echoed by James Palanio, a past president of the organization.

“This exemption affects all of the citizens of the city of Penticton. By taking the money away, it takes programs away. It puts people back out on the street,” said Palanio. “It’s not us that is benefiting, it is the entire community that is benefitting.”

Council voted unanimously to return all three groups to tax-exempt status. They also were unanimous in support of a motion from Hopkin, who suggested a review of the permissive tax exemption policy and the creation of a working group with not only council and staff, but representatives from affected organizations.

 

Just Posted

Geordie Fife exits the dunk tank during 2017’s Discovery House Father’s Day festivities at Skaha Lake Park. The fundraiser helps raise awareness of the work done at the house and break down the stigma associated with addiction. (Western News File)
Discovery House Father’s Day fundraiser goes digital

The addiction recovery program will be rolling out videos ahead of the fundraiser

The proposed design of the five-storey building on Front Street. (City of Penticton)
Five-storey building proposed for Penticton’s Front Street

It will be the second time the proposal will head to council

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from St. Eugene’s residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

RCMP thanked the public for assistance in finding Benjamin Archie, last seen in Princeton. (RCMP)
Missing Chilliwack man found safe and sound

The 80-year-old had walked away from his home in Chilliwack

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Most Read