Committee changes mind on Christian radio station’s tax break

Committee initially recommended council deny tax exemption for Spirit 88.7 FM

A city committee has reversed its decision to deny a non-profit Christian radio station a tax break.

The Community Partnership Committee has reconsidered its recommendation to council to end a three-year permissive tax exemption (PTE) to Spirit 88.7 FM based on new information recently brought forward.

The committee, in a report to city council, wrote that, “Based on additional information provided, which demonstrates a clear local benefit to many other local non-profit organizations, the Community Partnership Committee is recommending a 100 per cent PTE be granted to Total Change Christian Ministries.”

Total Change, which operates Spirit FM, has received an exemption from municipal property taxation since 2012.

This year, however, the Community Partnership Committee, which evaluates applications to the tax program based on guidelines established by city council, initially recommended that council deny Total Change its permissive tax exemption.

The committee determined that, based on information contained in Spirit FM’s application package, that it did not qualify for a permissive tax exemption “because while they did commendable work and important work around the world, there (was) limited perceived direct local benefit to the community and its citizens.”

Terry Somerville, president of Total Change Ministries, said the radio station does provide services for the benefit of the community but that he missed outlining that work in his application.

On Sept. 19, council received a letter from Somerville detailing how community-minded Spirit FM really is.

“Every hour of the day we promote other local community organizations and their events,” Somerville wrote. “We help them succeed. We offer advertising free of charge to all non-profit organizations in the city and many take advantage of this.”

Somerville said his radio station has promoted events like the Shoreline Arts Carving Contest, Logger Sports, Dragon Boat regatta, Cops for Cancer ride and most recently the city’s year-end events at Centennial Pool and the Willow Point splash park, as well as the Museum’s steam donkey celebration on Labour Day, and the North Island Cruisers Show ’n Shine.

The Community Partnership Committee said after considering Somerville’s letter that it changed its original assessment.

“It is clear from the additional information provided that the radio station, which broadcasts from the leased property (in Campbell River Common Mall) provides a valuable service, free of charge, to many local non-profit organizations and thus meets the local benefit criteria in council policy to support the PTE.”

City council accepted the committee’s recommendation at its Tuesday meeting and gave third reading to a list that includes permissive tax exemptions for 82 community groups.

Adding Spirit FM to the list of 2017 tax exemptions increases the value of the tax breaks awarded from $788,048 to $790,310 – an increase of $2,262 which is comprised of $1,212 in city taxes and $1,050 in other government taxes.

As per a change in policy, the permissive tax exemptions represent 1.7 per cent of general tax revenues. The cap was previously 1.4 per cent but the committee determined that number was insufficient to meet the increased assessed values of the properties occupied by community groups in the permissive tax exemption program.