Tax break tool seldom used

The bylaw allows the regional district to exempt certain types of property

The Strathcona Regional District will update a tax break policy to raise awareness that such a tool exists.

The regional district board of directors, at last week’s Wednesday meeting, voted to have staff prepare an administrative policy designed to inform the public about permissive tax exemptions. Directors Brenda Leigh and Andy Adams were opposed.

The bylaw allows the regional district to exempt certain types of property located within the regional district’s electoral areas from property taxation.

However, the tool is seldom used and Area D Director Leigh said she didn’t think it was necessary that staff write a new policy.

“This is a rarely used application that we get. We get one from the Quadra Legion branch and the Quadra Conservancy and those are the only two we ever get,” Leigh said. “It’s so rarely used it’s hardly necessary to put a policy statement on it. I don’t see the need to waste staff time on it.”

But Cortes Island Director Noba Anderson said the board shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it.

“It seems like a good tool, perhaps we should be promoting this in our communities more,” Anderson said. “I’d be interested to hear a little bit more rather than just ditch it.”

Leigh, though, was concerned that the policy would dictate who the board could and couldn’t approve for tax exemptions and said she couldn’t support a blanket policy.

“Each case comes to us and they have individual circumstances, so writing a one-size-fits-all policy for that doesn’t make sense,” Leigh said. “You need to consider them one at a time, consider their needs, consider their merit in getting an exemption.”

But Tom Yates, the regional district’s corporate services manager, said the policy would not determine which applications should and shouldn’t be approved by the board.

“The intent is to get rid of the current policy and work on this issue from an administrative perspective,” Yates said. “In other words, by clear direction to the public as to where, when and how they can make these applications without getting into the criteria of what to support and what not.”

Julie Colborne, director for Zeballos, wanted confirmation from staff that the policy would be for the benefit of the public.

“So this policy would be more like a tool for the public, it would be an information package so if someone comes in to claim a tax exemption, this is what they’d see?” Colborne asked.

Staff confirmed that was the intent and the board went ahead with directing staff to come back with a new policy.

Currently, the regional district deals with permissive tax exemptions for the following:

  • Properties used for athletic, recreation, public worship, education, agricultural, horticultural or public use.
  • Heritage properties.
  • Riparian properties on which a covenant with the regional district to protect the property has been entered into.
  • Properties owned or held by a party to a partnering agreement with the regional district.