Editorial: Don’t penalize charities that save money

City council wrong to trim list of tax exemptions, which help fill gaps left by other levels of government

Once again, the City of Penticton is whittling down the amount of tax exemptions it hands out.

The matter has been approached by city council many times since the city was incorporated more than a century ago. But in the last five years, current and previous councils keep returning to the issue, seeming intent on limiting or stripping tax exemptions from community organizations, churches and service groups.

In 2009, council got its fingers burned when the community strongly protested a move to limit tax exemptions, and had to backtrack again in 2011 when 10 organizations appealed their decision.

The tax exemptions add up to a significant amount, $392,855 this year, but what’s missing from the equation is what that money is used for.

Most of those cut from this year’s list, including the Salvation Army food bank, lost their status because they have “excessive working capital.” It can’t be denied the Salvation Army has a healthy bank account in Penticton, but besides the food bank and their own church, that money supports a shelter, two thrift stores and a number of other programs for helping those in need, both long and short term.

The same goes for the other organizations. These are the groups that make up the social support fabric of our community. The city doesn’t operate shelters, soup kitchens, food banks, visitor programs for shut-ins, or a plethora of other services.

Lucky then, that there are so many groups willing to take up where the governments leaves off. And in an era of shrinking grants, none of them should be penalized because they have managed to put funds aside to see them through an uncertain future.

Instead, the city should look at what the money is being used for, and only penalize those that are funnelling money out of the community.