Mission property owners have an additional three months to pay their municipal taxes this year.
On Monday night, council passed the 2020 Annual Tax Rates Bylaw, which includes an increase of 4.39 per cent – approved at the end of 2019 – plus a one-time change in the late-penalty structure.
While tax notices, being sent out in the coming weeks, will still include the payment deadline of July 2, 2020, the normal 10 per cent late charge will not be enforced until Oct. 1. This gives taxpayers who may be struggling financially due to the COVID-19 restrictions an extra three months to pay. Payment is due by Sept. 30.
This follows the provincial government legislation that late-payment penalties for commercial, industrial, recreational and managed forest properties will be postponed until Oct. 1.
Ken Herar was the only councillor who spoke against the bylaw, not because of the delay in payment but because of the 4.39 per cent increase.
Reading from a prepared statement, Herar said the tax increase comes at a critical time and reminded council that he voted against the increase last fall.
“I’m even more against it today,” he said.
“The world has changed. Actions speak louder than words. When we say we’re all in this together, those of us who work for the public must step up and demonstrate the leadership that is needed in such unprecedented and challenging times.”
Herar said people have been told to stay home, meaning they cannot go to work and have little or no income and it adds “insult to injury” to add a tax increase on top of that.
“We need to supply some kind of relief as the future looks uncertain for some of our residents. … What we do now will be the legacy of this council.”
He proposed finding savings in order to reduce the increase.
“I am personally taking a five per cent pay cut to help offset the need for a tax-rate increase,” Herar said.
Mayor Pam Alexis told Herar she, personally, didn’t think the tax bylaw should be altered.
“I am not in favour of changing the tax increase at this time, because I am very worried about 2021 and this would all be pushed to 2021 and we will have a completely different set of headaches in front of us,” Alexis said.
The rest of council agreed, noting that there are tough decisions to come in 2021.
Coun. Mark Davies was critical of Herar’s remarks.
“While that statement may look and sound good as a sound bite or how it plays in the media, it ignores the facts of the day, which is the district still has expenses; it still has staff and payroll to pay for. Sewage and water still get to people’s homes … This money has been allocated. It was spent. It was budgeted. We can definitely look at next year and look at how we can sharpen things to help people,” said Davies, adding that council has committed to this path.
Coun. Cal Crawford also supported the bylaw.
“When we originally came up with this plan, it was very important for Mission’s future. It’s even more important now for Mission’s future in light of COVID-19,” he said.
Crawford also commented on Herar’s statement.
“I have to say, I’m a little surprised at Coun. Herar’s grandstanding.”
Herar said he was taken back by Crawford’s accusation.
“I don’t think that was grandstanding at all. I’d like clarification on that … I was just trying to give some of the views, the input from our community that I’m hearing,” Herar said.
Alexis then shut down that part of the conversation, telling Herar, “I’m sure you and Coun. Crawford can have a conversation offline about that at some point.”