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http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=74&cat=23&id=727248&more= Coq. reviews tax policy, gives Jehovah?s a break By Janis Warren The Tri-City NewsSep 13 2006
The city of Coquitlam could potentially lose thousands of dollars a year in revenue if council changes the rules on municipal tax breaks.
Currently, the city offers property tax exemptions to 48 non-profit groups and churches, totalling nearly $500,000.
The Evergreen Cultural Centre gets the biggest tax relief at $132,685 a year followed by the Nature Trust at $34,451 and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada at $27,307.
According to a staff report, the city determines the tax breaks based on the group?s or the church?s benefit to the community and its financial need.
City resources for the following year are also taken into consideration, corporate manager Trevor Wingrove said.
Monday, city council directed staff to write a draft policy that would formalize the criteria ?so we have guidelines rather than a ?Please apply and we will let you know,?? Coun. Richard Stewart said.
Mayor Maxine Wilson said the city needs to adopt a more consistent approach to property tax exemptions that would include all non-profit groups, like the Royal Canadian Legion.
Still, she cautioned council has to be ?financially responsible? and ?look at tax ramifications so we know what the loss is.?
The direction to staff came after city council unanimously recommended to allow a request from the Westwood Congregation of the Jehovah?s Witnesses for a tax break for 2007.
For the past two years, the Pipeline Road church was denied exemption from city council because an amended policy didn?t permit new exemptions.
Coun. Barrie Lynch, who was on council when the vote was taken behind closed doors, said it was unfortunate the Westwood congregation ?got caught in a policy decision.?
(The congregation sued on religious discrimination grounds but lost. However, the judge ordered Coquitlam city hall to reconsider its decision against the church).
Monday?s decision, which is expected to be ratified at next week?s regular council meeting, will mean the congregation will receive a $1,700 tax break for 2007 as well as the return of $34,196 in back taxes.
Meanwhile, city council also allowed a $5,000 tax break in 2007 for the Soojung Presbyterian Church, which has yet to build its facility on Hazel Drive, on Burke Mountain; a $28,000 tax exemption for the Belvedere Care Centre; and a $1,530 exemption for the Howe Sound Rehabilitation Services Society, on Greenbrier Place.
But a bid by Planet Ice for a $68,000 tax break next year was turned down.
General manager Dave Van Straten told council that Maple Ridge gives Planet Ice a break for its sports facility there. ?We?ll have to re-group and see what we can do now,? he said afterwards.
Under the Community Charter, a bylaw must be passed by Oct. 31 for properties to be exempt for the following tax year.