Rossland city council stuck to its guns Tuesday in denying a full tax exemption to St. Andrew’s United Church, despite a plea for reconsideration from a church trustee.
While the United and Catholic churches have statutory exemptions for the land their buildings sit on, council decided in August to tax them on surrounding properties.
In the United Church’s case, it comes to about $400, of which half goes to the municipality and the rest to other levels of government.
Carol Hobbs DeRosa, a trustee with Communities in Faith Pastoral Charge, which runs St. Andrew’s, asked that a full exemption be granted to both churches, as in previous years.
She argued a statutory exemption should apply in this case and that church members already personally pay city taxes. She said churches contribute to the city’s spiritual and social wellness and St. Andrew’s is working to make its facility available to the entire community.
“Our congregation runs primarily on the efforts of volunteers,” she told council. “We struggle financially and every donation or financial relief, no matter how small, supports and encourages our volunteers.”
Seven Summits Centre for Learning has been using St. Andrew’s as a school for the last four years and has another four years under lease.
Hobbs DeRosa noted they are finishing the first phase of rehabilitating the historic building to make it more accessible and more flexible to be used as a performance space.
She also added that the United Chuch is a leader in working toward reconciliation with First Nations, and while it ran 15 residential schools between 1925 and 1969, it has apologized repeatedly for doing so.
Councillors said they appreciated the presentation, but it didn’t change their minds.
“I hope they don’t feel our consideration of this takes away from the effort the United Church is putting into being more relatable to the community and providing services,” councillor Janice Nightingale said. She said that while the amount the church owes is not large, “they support the whole community by paying those taxes.”
Council also decided to allow a one-year exemption to Golden City Manor while the organization firms up its process for evaluating its residents’ financial positions.
Councillor Stewart Spooner initially asked that the exemption be denied, calling the society’s process for assessing the low-income status of its residents “inadequate.”
“I can’t support an organization that doesn’t have a process consistent with others that [shows] residents deserve a tax exemption,” he said.
But councillor Dirk Lewis disagreed, suggesting the exemption could remain in place for one more year while the society works toward that goal.
He worried that turning them down “could present hardship to some folks who are dependent on the financial gains from the tax break.” Other councillors were also reluctant to remove the exemption, and voted to let it stand for 2022.