Terrace city council has approved 18 out of 23 permissive property tax exemption applications totalling approximately $141,500 annually for the next four years.
Five applications from the Terrace and District Community Service Society (TDCSS) for group homes were denied following changes to the city’s Permissive Tax Exemption Bylaw made last April. The value of the denied exemptions for TDCSS amounts to $7,651.
“Our current policy is silent on permissive tax exemptions for any not for profit or operating programs that fall under the housing continuum…in some cases they have been approved, in other years they haven’t been,” said Heather Avison, chief administrative officer, when the changes were first introduced.
The changes clearly identify short-term, non-rental housing like Ksan Society’s emergency shelter and transition house as eligible for tax exemption. Group homes like the five run by TDCSS would no longer qualify under this new language because they are more long-term and not open to the public, the city says. To date, the city has denied applications for any kind of rental housing.
“The residential group homes do not meet the short-term, emergency, or crisis protection criteria under the supportive housing properties category of Terrace’s tax exemption policy. These group homes only started receiving an exemption in 2013 under the terms of our old policy. Prior to 2013, TDCSS was paying full tax for all of their properties,” says city financial officer Lori Greenlaw.
The non-profit was approved an exemption for its respite facility for youth on Eby Street and their Choices program, amounting to $9,437.
With no surplus funds to pull from, TDCSS director Michael McFetridge says the non-profit is starting to figure out how to make up the deficit by approaching their funder or suspending programs and services that survive on volunteers.
“Every dollar that comes to TDCSS stays here, they belong to the community,” McFetridge says. “It’s our responsibility to find the expense that comes with losing the exemption. We’ve got to look for money somewhere.”
This isn’t the first time TDCSS has faced issues with tax exemption bylaws. In 2017, the City of Terrace denied the All Nations Centre and the Bread of Life Soup Kitchen on the corner of Sparks and Davis a permissive tax exemption as a non-profit organization because TDCSS was renting space from them for services.
The soup kitchen’s overdue tax bill of $4,000 had the potential of shutting the centre down for good because city staff felt the $500 monthly rent was considered a profit. In the end, the All Nations Centre received a one-third exemption but the remaining 71 per cent was considered owing because of TDCSS’ tenancy in the building at the time.
When council adopted the changes last spring, the city says potential impact to non-profits was considered as part of its deliberations as the value of the exemptions is then redistributed to the other taxpayers in the community.
Entities approved for permissive tax exemption status:
Canadian Red Cross
Salvation Army Thrift Shop
Kermode Friendship Society new building (excluding daycare portion)
Kermode Friendship Society programs (excluding daycare portion)
Ksan House Society Turning Points Shelter
Ksan House Society Emergency Shelter
Ksan House Society Transition House
Terrace and District Community Services Society Respite Facility
Terrace and District Community Services Choices program
Terrace Cerebral Palsy Association
Terrace Child Development Centre
Terrace Elks Lodge
Hospital Auxiliary Shop
Arts and Culture
Terrace Little Theatre Society
Terrace Legion Branch 13
My Mountain Co-op office
Terrace Curling Association
Salvation Army Church
The buildings and footprints of places of worship, private schools, the hospital and senior care facilities are statutorily exempt under B.C. law, but exempting any other lands and improvements are at the discretion of council.
—with files from Quinn Bender